Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page



31 Jan 2008 : Column WS53

Immigration: Children

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My honourable friend the Minister of State for Borders and Immigration and Minister for the West Midlands (Liam Byrne) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Earlier this month I set out the 10 key changes to Britain's border security and immigration system that we will deliver in 2008. As part of these reforms I said that it was important that we act more sensitively to the children in our care and to the victims of human trafficking. I would like therefore to update the House on measures being taken forward by the Border and Immigration Agency in relation to children.

First, I am pleased to announce to the House today the commencement of the public consultation exercise on the draft code of practice for keeping children safe from harm. The consultation will last for 12 weeks and copies of the consultation paper and the draft code of practice have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. As part of this consultation we will be talking to children to get their views.

The code will guide the BIA in fulfilling its new legal duty to keep children safe from harm. In drafting it the Border and Immigration Agency has already consulted widely. During the period of the consultation Border and Immigration Agency officials will hold a series of conferences so that interest groups can express their concerns to us in detail and in their own words. These conferences will be devoted to the themes that have been put to us so far as important, such as children in detention, referrals to statutory agencies, and other key areas where children come into contact with our immigration system; as well as seeking to identify what can be learnt from others. In particular there will be conferences on children's issues in each of the devolved Administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Secondly, I am also today publishing the responses to the public consultation exercise Planning Better Outcomes and Support for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children. We have considered carefully the responses to this document and taken account of the clear consensus that central government and local authorities need to work together to improve the way in which these children are referred to, cared for and supported by local authorities. Our main areas of reform in this area are:

placing unaccompanied asylum seeking children with a network of specialist local authorities to ensure they receive the expert services they need;better procedures to assess age in order to ensure that children and adults are not accommodated together. We will establish a working group with key stakeholders to gain consensus on how we move forward in this complex area of public policy;ensuring that we resolve a child's immigration status more quickly and therefore enable care planning to focus on integration or safe early return to the country of origin for unaccompanied young people; andputting in place better procedures for identifying and supporting asylum seeking children who are the victims of trafficking paying particular attention

31 Jan 2008 : Column WS54

to those who are at risk of going missing or at risk of further harm or exploitation. We will ensure that proposals around reform are developed in accordance with the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings.

Thirdly, the Home Secretary announced a review of the UK's reservation to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child on 14 January. I know this review has been widely welcomed. I am therefore launching a consultation today to run in parallel with that on the code of practice. I wish to take full account of the views of others in deciding whether the time is now right to withdraw the reservation.

Ministry of Defence: Defence Training

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): My right honourable friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Bob Ainsworth) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

This Statement updates the House on the Defence Training Review (DTR) Rationalisation Programme and BORONA Programme following announcements made last year on DTR on 25 October 2007 (Official Report, col. 15WS) and BORONA on 12 September 2007 (Official Report, col. 122WS). The BORONA Programme will establish HQ ARRC, 1 Signal Brigade and 102 Logistic Brigade in enduring bases in the UK.

Work continues on DTR Package 1, which aims to deliver training for engineering and communications and information systems at a new site at St Athan in South Wales. It is still anticipated that the department will be in a position to consider the main investment decision in the spring of this year. As part of this work to secure contract signature as soon as possible for Package 1, a programme of risk reduction work to the value of £9.5 million has been proposed with the Metrix Consortium. A departmental minute outlining this activity was laid in the House on 29 January. The proposed activities will be focused on the property and the estate, in particular securing planning consent, and development of the training solution. The cost of this work is included in Metrix's overall bid and is at no additional cost to the department.

After reviewing further options for Package 2, which aims to provide training for logistics and personnel administration, police and guarding, security, languages, intelligence and photography, it has become apparent that the Metrix Consortium is not able to offer an affordable and acceptable Package 2 solution and, as a consequence, the competition has been brought to a close. The decision has therefore been taken to remove provisional preferred bidder status from Metrix. This does not have any impact on the department's commitment to the DTR programme, and particularly in pursuing a Package 1 Metrix solution with vigour, but it does allow the department to focus its efforts on alternative approaches for Package 2, which are not legally constrained by the original terms of the procurement. These alternatives may continue to be open to Metrix and other potential industry partners. Options will continue to aim to rationalise and improve the estate, maintain the department's commitment to

31 Jan 2008 : Column WS55

its supervisory care responsibilities under the Blake agenda, and match the scale of investment in training modernisation to what is affordable. A further DTR update on both packages will be provided later this year after the appropriate investment decisions are made.

In addition, I wish to advise the House on defence estate solutions related to both the DTR and BORONA Programmes. Following the announcement to release Princess Royal Barracks, Deepcut, for disposal on 8 January 2008 (Official Report, col. 7WS), and further work on the defence estate, an agreement has been reached that, in principle, the Defence College of Logistics and Personnel Administration (DCLPA) and the Director Royal Logistics Corps (DRLC) will relocate to Worthy Down and Southwick Park. This move, which will consolidate elements of DCLPA and logistics training already on these sites, will allow the closure of the Deepcut site, currently anticipated to be not before 2013.

A decision has also been taken that, under the BORONA Programme, both 1 Signal Brigade and 102 Logistics Brigade returning from Germany will move to Cosford. This will maintain a significant long-term defence presence on this site and continue to provide the associated benefits that this brings to the local community and to the West Midlands following the relocation of the DTR Package 1 units currently based there. Furthermore, Metrix proposes to establish a learning centre and design facility at the Cosford site which may also generate other business and employment opportunities for the local area.

The BORONA Programme Team (BPT) will now develop proposals to deliver construction and service requirements at Cosford. In addition, the BPT will also draw up detailed plans and undertake wide consultation with all interested parties, including local authorities, health, education and welfare providers as well as the trades unions. A key piece of this consultation work will involve communication and discussion with the German authorities and with our locally engaged workforce in Germany and their representatives.

This detailed planning and consultation will review all possible options and will result in recommendations, including the actual timings of the moves, being made for a final investment decision in spring 2009.

The implications of these moves for our people will continue to be handled sensitively and in full consultation with trade unions and staff. However, both of these estate solutions are still subject to the appropriate final investment decision being made, after which further updates will be announced.

Prisons

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My right honourable friend, the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Following the Government’s response to the report by Lord Carter of Coles into the long-term supply and demand of prison places in December, (5 December 2007, Official Report, col. 827) I would like to provide the House with an update on progress to

31 Jan 2008 : Column WS56

date. Prison Policy UpdateBriefing Paper, outlining further detail on today’s announcements and an update on the supply measures which we are putting in place following the report of Lord Carter of Coles is published on the Ministry of Justice website at www.justice.gov.uk. Copies have also been placed in the Libraries of both Houses, the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.

The briefing paper sets out progress so far on the prison building programme announced in December. We announced then that we would provide a further 10,500 prison places on top of the 9,500 place programme previously announced. This will lead to a net increase in prison places of 15,000 by 2014. This year alone 2,500 new prison places will be delivered, of which more than 1,000 will be operational before the end of April. A further 1,600 are planned for 2009.

The paper also sets out details on how “Titan” prisons will work. We plan to build up to three Titan prisons by 2014 and a consultation on the design of such complexes will begin in April. This will build on the success of clustering small prisons together; for example, at the Isle of Sheppey. We are starting to identify suitable sites for Titans, housing 2,500 prisoners each, in the south-east, West Midlands and the north-west. We are also launching a competition for a new prison ship and have begun a consultation for a new prison at the former RAF Coltishall airfield.

The announcements I am making today signal a major drive to overcome some of the barriers to the rehabilitation of offenders. Our primary aim in doing so is further to aid the work we are already doing on cutting reoffending. These measures are focused on tackling drug use among offenders and providing opportunities for offenders to learn the new skills which might help them to a life away from crime outside prison.

These announcements are framed by a sense of what the community can expect from those who break the law. We will provide opportunities for offenders to learn the skills which will present the hope of a new life on release, but in return we will set out what the community expects from those offenders who take up these opportunities. I have asked my right honourable friend the Minister of State for Prisons (David Hanson) to bring forward proposals for a clearer “contract” between offenders and the community.

In the mean time, I am announcing today a range of new measures on prison work and industries, on tackling drugs and on community justice. These build on the announcements we made in response to Lord Carter of Coles’ review of prisons, including Lord Bradley’s review of mental health issues.

First, we will increase the range of constructive work available to offenders inside prison, and in turn their job opportunities on the outside. We have an existing corporate alliance with more than 70 employers, in addition to those working in individual prisons and probation areas, but the Government are now committed to expanding this programme significantly. With ministerial colleagues from the Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills,

31 Jan 2008 : Column WS57

my right honourable friend the Minister of State for Prisons will shortly host a forum with leading figures from the private and third sectors to bring in more partners to provide prison training workshops.

Today we are also announcing the launch of a major new scheme at HMP Wandsworth, (with Cisco, Bovis Lend Lease and Panduit) to train prisoners in installing voice and data cabling. Providing enhanced vocational training to prisoners is instrumental in helping offenders turn away from crime, and giving them back a sense of stability, discipline and responsibility.

Secondly, we are taking further steps to tackle drug use in prison and in the community against a background over the past few years of a tenfold increase in investment in drugs work in prisons and a two-thirds fall in the number of prisoners testing positive for drugs in prison (from 24 per cent in 1996-97 to 8.8 per cent in 2006-07). But we are clear that we have to go further. This drive against drugs will cover both drug treatment programmes in prisons and the control of drugs in prisons, and will be jointly headed by two senior figures with relevant experience in each area, who will be announced shortly.

Ministers are urgently considering what further measures we need to take over controlling the supply of drugs into prisons, such as reviewing the criteria for open/closed visits across the prison estate, with a particular focus on local prisons. This will also look at introducing more rigorous searches, including the provision of more sniffer/search dogs.

As well as stamping out the supply of drugs, we are helping offenders kick the habit in prison. By April, 29 prisons will have introduced the integrated drug treatment system (IDTS), and I am pleased to announce that with the Department of Health we will be extending this scheme to a further 20 prisons over the next 12 months. IDTS provides better clinical services (funded by the Department of Health), such as improved detoxification programmes and greater continuity of care between the community and prisons, between prisons, and on release into the community, as well as helping offenders to address some of the deeper roots of their drug abuse. Alongside this, we will also consider extending the number of drug-free wings where prisoners can access increased rehabilitation and support separate from known drug users.

In the community, we are increasing the provision of current community sentences that specifically target and intensively supervise offenders with a drug misuse problem by 1,000 next year. These are known as drug rehabilitation requirements (DRR). The aim of the DRR, which involves treatment, regular testing and court reviews of progress and rigorous enforcement, is to get offenders to stop offending, with the longer-term aim of getting them off drugs for good.

Thirdly, many offenders come from chaotic backgrounds, their lives ruined by the pernicious cycle of crime and drug abuse. Subject to the current evaluation of the Leeds and West London pilots, we will extend our successful dedicated drug courts to four further areas, in which courts look to address the causes of offending along with the offence.

We will also bring forward pilots of models for court diversion and reviewable community orders for

31 Jan 2008 : Column WS58

those with mental health issues. These will be based on models in the American and Australian jurisdictions. Problem-solving approaches applied to mental health builds on experience developed within HMCS relating to community justice, domestic violence courts and drugs court pilots, all aimed at ensuring that the courts respond effectively to problems in the criminal justice system.

For many offenders on sentences of less than 12 months community-based punishments are proven to be more effective at reducing reoffending than short prison terms. Therefore, we will fund at least six intensive alternatives to custody projects with new investment of £13.9 million over the next three years. The first such project will begin in Derbyshire in March, and will include a combination of unpaid work, electronic monitoring, behaviour programmes, mentoring, and help with resettlement, all under intensive supervision. More than 6 million hours of unpaid work are already carried out in the community each year. With the Department of Communities and Local Government we will further build on community payback, such as through options like citizens’ panels to decide on which projects offenders should undertake in their local area.

Today’s announcements should be set in the context of an impressive criminal justice record. This is the first post-war administration to preside over a sustained and substantial reduction in crime. The latest British Crime Survey/Recorded Crime Statistics demonstrated that overall crime has fallen a third since 1997, while the chances of being a victim of crime are the lowest since accurate recording began 27 years ago.

During the past decade more than 20,000 prison places have been provided due to more offenders being brought to justice, including 60 per cent more violent and dangerous offenders, and being sentenced for longer. We are fully committed to providing a net further 15,000 places by 2014. Meanwhile, prisons and the prison regime are almost unrecognisable from the institutions of 10 to 15 years ago. In spite of the pressures the prisons are under, they continue to be much more decent, humane and constructive places.

Schools: Funding

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Lord Adonis): My honourable friend the Minister for State for Schools and 14-19 Learners (Jim Knight) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am announcing today the launch of a review of the distribution formula for dedicated schools grant (DSG).

In my Statement to the House on 25 June 2007 I announced that although the DSG for 2008-11 would be distributed using the spend plus method, there would be a review of the formula for distributing school and early years funding with the aim of developing a single, transparent formula that would be available for use from 2011-12. A consultation on the terms of reference for the review was launched in August 2007. I am today publishing a summary of the responses to the consultation and placing a copy of that summary

31 Jan 2008 : Column WS59

in the Library of the House. I am grateful to all those who responded to the consultation.

The overwhelming majority of respondents to the consultation (88 per cent) supported the aims of the review and the need to introduce a formula for the distribution of DSG. Their view was that it would be unsustainable to continue with the spend plus methodology for the longer term.

The overarching aim of the review will be to produce a funding system that should support schools and local authorities to raise the educational achievement of all children and young people and to narrow the gap in educational achievement between all children, including those from low-income and disadvantaged backgrounds. The resultant distribution formula for DSG should be based on the principles of transparency, simplicity and stability.

A number of respondents to the consultation suggested that consideration should be given to removing the ring-fence on the DSG and to the payment of school funding through general formula grant, with decisions on the level of schools expenditure taken locally. Over the past 10 years the Government have invested record amounts in education. Overall per pupil funding, including capital funding, will reach £6,600 by 2011—nearly a threefold cash increase since 1997 and more than double in real terms. This demonstrates our continuing commitment to raising standards for all young people, and we are determined that further increases in school funding should be spent in schools, so that we can meet our long-term aim that per pupil funding for schools should match the level of support available to children in independent day schools. Consequently the review will start from the premise that the ring-fence on DSG will remain. However, the review will examine the scope for greater flexibility in the use of DSG to support the delivery of Every Child Matters outcomes and the implementation of the Children’s Plan.

There will be a number of key themes to the review. We will carry out a needs-led analysis to assess the feasibility of using this method to set the basic entitlement to funding that local authorities will receive for each of the pupils in their schools. We will look at the additional costs that should be taken into account in high wage areas and high housing cost areas, in co-ordination with the review of area costs recently announced by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, and with the review of teachers’ pay bands recommended by the School Teachers’ Review Body. We will commission work to review the costs of educating pupils with additional educational needs (AEN). With the introduction of diplomas and the raising of the age of compulsory participation in education and training to 18, we will review the scope for working towards a common 14 to 19 funding system. Finally, we will also consider the scope for introducing incentives into the funding system, for example, to improve pupil progression.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page