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20 Oct 2000 : Column WA105

Written Answers

Friday, 20th October 2000.

Planning Inspectorate

Baroness Nicol asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any plans to change the status of the Planning Inspectorate.[HL4309]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): On 30 March 2000, my honourable friend the Minister for Housing, Planning and Construction, announced that the Planning Inspectorate was to be reviewed. In accordance with Cabinet Office guidance, the review is being conducted in two stages. It is being undertaken jointly by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, and the National Assembly for Wales, with the assistance of a steering group including representatives from Cabinet Office, Treasury and external bodies.

The report of stage one, which considered organisational options, is being published today. It recommends that the Planning Inspectorate should remain as an executive agency. We have accepted this recommendation.

The department and the National Assembly for Wales will now conduct stage two of the review, which will examine how the performance of the Planning Inspectorate could be improved.

Copies of the review report are being placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

We have also today issued a response to the thirteenth report by the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee: The Planning Inspectorate and Public Inquiries (Cm 4891).

Classroom Teachers: Threshold Standards Review

Lord Dubs asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their latest position on the report of the School Teachers' Review Body on the performance threshold for classroom teachers.[HL4308]

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): The report of the School Teachers' Review Body's special review of the threshold standards for classroom teachers and related matters has been published today. Copies are available in the Vote Office, the Printed Paper Office and the Library of the House. We are grateful to the Chair and members of the Review Body for their urgent work on this remit following the judgment of the High Court in July.

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The Secretary of State asked the School Teachers' Review Body to examine and report on four matters:

    the standards to be attained by teachers at the performance threshold in order to gain access to the upper pay scale;

    the procedure for assessment at the performance threshold;

    whether head teachers should be subject to a duty to make any appropriate contribution to threshold assessment; and

    whether classroom teachers should be subject to a duty to assist the head teacher in the performance of any new duty relating to threshold assessment.

The Secretary of State has decided, subject to statutory consultation, to accept the review body's recommendations. Over 200,000 teachers have applied in England. It is the Secretary of State's clear commitment to resume the assessment process as quickly as possible so that teachers can get the pay rise they deserve. For Wales, the same performance pay system will operate and the Secretary of State proposes to set a deadline of mid-March for eligible teachers to submit their threshold applications. The payments for all successful candidates will be back-dated to 1 September 2000.

A copy of the Secretary of State's consultation letter is being placed in the Library of both Houses of Parliament. The Secretary of State's main proposals, which include minor modifications of the review body recommendations where indicated, are as follows:

    The threshold standards which were being used prior to 14 July 2000 should continue to be used and appear in a new section of the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document. They comprise eight standards, covering the areas of knowledge and understanding, teaching and assessment, pupil progress, wider professional development and professional characteristics. The document would also include the procedures which were in the original document, subject to the modifications set out below.

    The Secretary of State also proposes new application dates for teachers in Wales, and for future application rounds. He has agreed to extend provision for late applications from teachers in England in exceptional circumstances.

    The review body has recommended that teachers who, after further discussion with the head, continue to believe that they have been wrongly assessed as not yet meeting the threshold standards should be given the right to have that decision reviewed, perhaps by a second assessor or by some other body.

    The Secretary of State has accepted that recommendation as part of the consultation and will be consulting on a review procedure.

    The Secretary of State has confirmed the proposed duty on head teachers relating to the handling and assessment of threshold applications. Head teachers' duties would also include giving teachers, within a reasonable

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    timescale, an explanation of the result of their assessment with an indication of areas for further development.

    The review body has proposed that the duties for other teachers should in principle be as were included in the document but the DfEE should consider any additional wording which is suggested to make the duties specific to teachers with relevant line management responsibilities.

    The Secretary of State will also consult on more detailed issues relating to the assessment process.

Threshold funding

In July, the Secretary of State presented a draft Special Grant report to Parliament to give him authority to fund schools in England via their local education authority for the additional paybill costs of all teachers passing the threshold. This report had to be withdrawn following the High Court judgment.

The Secretary of State now proposes to present a replacement Special Grant report to Parliament as soon as the Pay and Conditions Order is laid. Like the withdrawn Special Grant, this will pay £2,001 plus on-costs at 17.8 per cent per year in respect of every full-time equivalent teacher who passes the threshold assessment within the maintained schools sector. The grant will not be cash limited. We are consulting interested parties in parallel on the text of this report.

The funding of the performance pay threshold in Wales is a matter for the National Assembly for Wales. Extra funding has been made available to local education authorities in Wales by the Assembly, where the local government revenue settlement allows for an increase in spending on education of £91 million for 2000-01. This increase took account of the impact of all of the elements of pay restructuring, but if necessary additional funding will be provided by the National Assembly for Wales to ensure that resources are provided to meet the full costs of the threshold payments for 2000-01.

Next steps

The Secretary of State will now initiate consultation with the teacher associations, the employer organisations and other interested parties, as required under Section 2(1) of the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Act 1991, before he makes provision by order for the appropriate amendments to teachers' pay and conditions.

Tax and Tax Credit Statistics

Lord Newby asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What tax and tax credit statistics are collected on (1) a local authority and (2) a parliamentary constituency level.[HL4095]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Available information on tax and tax credits is based on samples of administrative records of taxpayers and recipients held centrally for statistical purposes. The collection of such statistics is not specifically designed to produce

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estimates at parliamentary constituency or local authority level but cases can be allocated to such areas of matching the postcode against the Office for National Statistics' Postcode Directory. In general there are too few cases in the various samples held centrally for reliable estimates to be made at this level. However estimates of the total number of working families' tax credit and disabled person's tax credit awards made in each parliamentary constituency and local authority are in published quarterly tables which are available in the Library. Some information on income tax at local authority level was last published in Table 3.14 of Inland Revenue Statistics 1999, also available in the Library.

Chief Dental Officer: Support

Lord Colwyn asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In view of their recent White Paper Modernising NHS Dentistry--Implementing the NHS Plan and the stated intention of improving dental care in the National Health Service, whether they intend that the Chief Dental Officer for England should be a full time post and that there should be an increase in the dental support available for that post.[HL4204]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): Dame Margaret Seward takes up post as the new Chief Dental Officer on 1 November and will work three days per week, concentrating on the implementation of the Government's strategy for National Health Service dentistry in England. In this she will be supported by the existing complement of professional dental advisers and a wide network of NHS Executive administrative staff. The level of support for Dame Margaret will be kept under review.

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