Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page



13 Mar 2008 : Column WS141

Written Statements

Thursday 13 March 2008

Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Scholarships and Fellowships

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

In parallel with the work on the new Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) strategic framework, which I announced to the House on 23 January, I should like to inform the House of our plans for the future of scholarships and fellowships funding.

We have found a transformed situation in higher education, and an FCO scholarship programme that has not always been well aligned to foreign policy goals. So we propose a smaller, better organised programme, focused on the leaders of tomorrow, from a wide range of backgrounds. The savings we make from this reform will support new priority programmes, principally on climate change.

Twelve years ago 30,000 post-graduate students came to the UK from outside the EU. Since then, that number has gone up by 160 per cent. British universities actively market themselves, and many offer their own scholarships. So we need to focus on the value-added from the FCO's scholarship schemes. This value-added is the creation of relationships between the United Kingdom and the international leaders of the future.

We currently support three scholarship schemes (Chevening, Marshall and Commonwealth) in addition to our Chevening fellowship programme. Our scholarship schemes bring young post-graduates to the UK, normally for masters degree courses. Our fellowship scheme brings mid-career professionals for 12-week custom-designed specialist courses.

As we reviewed our schemes, we found a number of weaknesses. The purpose of the scholarship schemes has not always been clear. We have not always sought out students we thought could become international leaders. We have pursued high numbers of scholars, which has sometimes reduced focus on quality. We have not consistently done enough to build the personal relationships with the scholars which we need to get the most out of the schemes, including during selection, which we have sometimes left to others, during their time in the UK and after they have finished their studies. We have not always worked closely enough with our partner government departments with an international focus, or with British business, to ensure the scholarship schemes work for them. And the Chevening scholarship brand has been stronger in some countries than in others.

The schemes have had real strengths. But we need to refocus them to ensure that these strengths are consistent. We will maintain a global scheme, but we will focus scholarships particularly on those countries such as China and India which are going to be most

13 Mar 2008 : Column WS142

important to our foreign policy success over coming years. We will select more carefully to ensure our scholars really are potential future leaders, with our heads of mission having personal responsibility for ensuring their posts are getting this right. We will work to ensure that we are drawing from the widest possible pool of potential scholars.

We will maintain a much closer relationship with those scholars who do come, making sure that right from the start of the selection process we begin to build links with them, increasing our contact with them while they are here, and staying in closer touch with them after they leave, including through the introduction of a new web-based alumni networking system.

We want to increase the engagement that British business and government departments with an international focus have with the scholars, and we are starting a consultation process to ensure this happens. We will work in the future through two scholarship schemes only, the Marshall scheme in the USA and the Chevening scheme in the rest of the world, and will develop the strength of these brands. This means an end to the FCO contribution to the Commonwealth scholarship and fellowship plan. We will maintain the highly successful Chevening fellowship scheme at its current level.

These changes will free up some £10 million a year for new activity on our new policy goals. The majority of this will be spent on programmes to support the development and implementation of a low-carbon, high-growth economy, in particular:

with other UK government departments, developing sound scientific and economic evidence in key countries which demonstrates the benefits of taking strong, early action on climate change;mobilising support for such action through engagement with key decision-makers, including political, business and civil society leaders in key countries such as the US, China and India; andwith other UK government departments, developing and helping to implement regulation in key countries which facilitates investments in low carbon technologies and energy efficiency.

Under the new strategic framework, we are also increasing our resources for staff working on these issues in London and overseas.

Planning: Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment) (England) Order 1995

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Iain Wright) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I have today laid before the House an amendment to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment) (England) Order 1995 (the GPDO) which will apply from 6 April 2008. The amendment provides permitted development rights

13 Mar 2008 : Column WS143

for the installation of specified types of microgeneration equipment on or within the curtilage of dwellinghouses. The equipment includes solar photovoltaics (PV), solar thermal, ground and water source heat pumps, biomass heating and combined heat and power systems. Where permitted development rights are granted, no application for planning permission is needed.

The Government consulted in April 2007 on the proposed extension of householder permitted development rights for microgeneration. There were two main policy objectives; first to provide extra freedom for permitted development so long as it had little or no impact beyond the host property. Secondly, the Government wanted to make it easier for householders to combat climate change by producing their own energy from renewable sources.

In November 2007, the Government issued their response to the consultation. The Government announced that they intended to provide permitted development for the following types of microgeneration: solar panels, wind turbines, heat pumps, biomass and combined heat and power, subject to specific limits and conditions that would ensure that any adverse impact on others was not significant. The response said that standards would need to be set on noise and vibration for wind turbines and air source heat pumps to ensure that neighbours were not disturbed by the development. For that reason, permitted development rights for wind turbines and air source heat pumps would be implemented as soon as these standards and safeguards had been drawn up and put in place. These would be dealt with principally through further work being led by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform working with key stakeholders, including industry, to develop a certification scheme for microgeneration that covers both standards for products and their installation.

The amendment to the GPDO allows for the installation of solar PV or solar thermal equipment on the wall or roof of a dwellinghouse or a building within its curtilage so long as the equipment does not protrude more than 200 millimetres. Stand alone solar PV or solar thermal will be permitted if its height does not exceed four metres above ground level and it is more than five metres from the boundary. There are restrictions that apply to solar in conservation areas, in World Heritage Sites and to listed buildings.

Good progress has been made on the associated test standards that will apply to wind turbines and air source heat pumps, as part of the microgeneration certification scheme. The scheme and standards have been developed in consultation with stakeholders and industry. In due course, the GPDO will incorporate standards to ensure that habitable rooms of any neighbouring residential property are not exposed to an outside noise level exceeding 45 decibels. The noise limit will apply to free-standing wind turbines and those mounted on detached dwellings. Similar provisions will apply to air source heat pumps. The decibel level will be reviewed after two years in the light of conditions prevailing at the time.

The microgeneration certification scheme has been notified to the European Commission and cleared. However, reference within the GPDO has to be notified

13 Mar 2008 : Column WS144

to the Commission under the EC Technical Standards Directive 98/34/EC as a new regulation. This process is likely to be concluded within a few months. The Government will amend the GPDO to grant permitted development rights for wind turbines and air source heat pumps which comply with the certification scheme and standards upon satisfactory completion of this legal process. This amendment will apply to free-standing wind turbines, those mounted on detached dwellings, and to air source heat pumps. These rights will not extend to wind turbines on attached dwellings such as semi-detached and terraced houses until further work has been carried out by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and industry on potential nuisance to neighbours from structure-borne noise and vibration.

I wish to make it clear to the House that it is only the need to provide a satisfactory standard that addresses noise and vibration issues, which then has to go through the legal process mentioned above, that prevents the inclusion of wind turbines and air source heat pumps in the statutory instrument laid before Parliament today.

Prisons: Drugs

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

The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) takes the misuse of drugs in prisons very seriously. Since 1996-97, the overall random MDT positive rate has decreased from 24.4 per cent to 8.8 per cent in 2006-07. This represents a decrease of 64 per cent for that period. Ministers are now urgently considering what further measures we need to take over controlling the supply of drugs into prisons. NOMS has been pro-active in monitoring changing patterns of misuse and in ensuring that the best available supply reduction measures are in place. By this Statement, I am announcing that mandatory drug testing (MDT) for buprenorphine will be introduced in all prisons from 1 April.

Buprenorphine (Subutex) is being prescribed increasingly in the community in the treatment of opioid dependence and is gaining equal clinical status to methadone in some areas. This has been accompanied by increased illegal use. Buprenorphine testing has been in place since 1999, restricted to those prisons with an identified problem. Growing operational concern at the potential for wider buprenorphine misuse in prisons led NOMS to commission a survey in 2007 to assess the scale of the problem. The results show that misuse of this drug has grown to be a significant problem and that its use is now more widespread geographically.

Buprenorphine misuse presents a new challenge for prisons. In response, testing will now be introduced in all prisons to act as a deterrent. Prisoners will also be warned of the dangers involved in misusing this drug and reminded of the drug treatment options available in prisons.



13 Mar 2008 : Column WS145

The increased misuse of buprenorphine does not detract from the considerable achievement of prisons over the past 10 years in reducing the supply of drugs.

The introduction of buprenorphine testing in all prisons will, however, inevitably lead to an increase in reported levels of drug misuse. Key performance targets have already been set for 2008-09, but these do not take into account the impact of buprenorphine. Therefore, this year two sets of performance data will be recorded, the headline measure excluding buprenorphine and a separate measure including buprenorphine. This will demonstrate clearly the impact of buprenorphine testing and enable the comparison of prison performance to continue on a consistent basis. New targets that take into account buprenorphine misuse will then be set for 2009-10. Though we may continue to run two data sets in parallel to provide longer term comparisons of trends.

Copies of the report A Survey of Buprenorphine Misuse in Prisons: July 2007 have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses, the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. Copies are also available on the internet at www.justice.gov.uk/news/newsrelease130308a.htm.

Schools: Special Educational Needs

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Lord Adonis): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children, Young People and Families (Kevin Brennan) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

In October 2007, the House of Commons Education and Skills Committee published Special Educational Needs: Assessment and Funding. The report identified parental confidence in the special educational needs (SEN) assessment system as a key issue in making provision for children with SEN. We share the committee’s desire to improve parental confidence and in the Children’s Plan we set out an ambitions package of measures supported by £18 million of additional investment over 2008-11. This package will improve the skills of the workforce in meeting children’s special educational needs and focus on the outcomes being achieved.

This year we will roll out new, specially developed SEN and disability units for primary undergraduate teacher training courses to be followed by units for secondary and PGCE courses next year. We are developing the skills of the early years and schools workforce through the inclusion development programme and promoting specialist training through the work of the three trusts we have supported in communication, autism and dyslexia. In addition, we are learning about the progress of children with SEN through the Making Good Progress pilots and will be improving data to support progression.

Building on this, in our response to the committee’s report (HC 298, published 4 February 2008) we committed to setting up a group of expert advisers, under the chairmanship of Brian Lamb, the chair of the Special Educational Consortium, to advise on the most effective

13 Mar 2008 : Column WS146

ways of increasing parental confidence in the SEN assessment process. In formulating their advice, we have asked the inquiry to:

consider whether increasing parental confidence could be best achieved by—making the provision of educational psychology advice “arm’s length” from local authorities; sharing best practice in developing good relationships between the authority and parents, through effective parent partnership services and other local mechanisms; effective practice by schools and local authorities in meeting the needs of children at School Action Plus; and other innovative proposals;commission and evaluate innovative projects, in the areas identified, that can demonstrate the impact on parental confidence of a particular approach; draw on the evidence of other work currently commissioned by the department; andtake into account the evidence of the submissions to the two Select Committee reports, in 2006 and 2007.

To advise him, Brian Lamb has brought together a group of expert advisers who reflect a range of interests and opinions. The group consists of:

Nick Armstrong of Matrix Chambers;Virginia Bovell, parent and associate director of TreeHouse; Colin Diamond, director of Children’s Services for North Somerset; Dr Fiona Hammans, headteacher of Banbury School, Oxfordshire;Professor Ann Lewis of Birmingham University; andJane McConnell of the Independent Panel for Special Education Advice (IPSEA).

A broader reference group of professionals and parents will also inform the inquiry. This group will bring a wide range of evidence and extensive networks to the process of evidence gathering.

I have asked the inquiry to start its work immediately and have asked for a report in June 2008 on the commissioning of the innovative projects and initial areas of focus for the inquiry. The projects will run for the school year September 2008 to July 2009, and an evaluation will run concurrently.

I have asked Brian Lamb and his advisers to report in September 2009. The findings of the inquiry will be available to the Ofsted SEN survey of 2009-10 and will help to inform the development of the next stage of our thinking in this area.

Science and Innovation

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (Lord Triesman): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Science and Innovation (John Denham) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Today I am publishing two documents: Innovation Nation: a White Paper on Science and Innovation; and Implementing The Race to the Top”: the response to

13 Mar 2008 : Column WS147

Lord Sainsbury’s review of
the Government’s Science and Innovation Policies. Copies will be made available in the Vote Office and Printed Paper office.

The White Paper sets out what Government will do to ensure that innovation can flourish across every area of our economy—in business, in the third sector, and in the public sector.

We want to make Britain the best country in the world to run an innovative business or public service. We can do this by investing in people and knowledge, unlocking talent at all levels; by investing in research and in the exploitation of knowledge; and by using regulation, public procurement and public services to shape the market for innovative solutions.

This White Paper marks a step-change in the way we describe, understand and develop the Government’s role in creating the best conditions for innovation. We need to ensure that Britain contributes to the innovative solutions that will be needed if we are to tackle the big challenges of the 21st century, like global warming and sustainable development, and that British business and the British people benefit from the new opportunities and prosperity they create.

In our response to “The Race to the Top”, Lord Sainsbury’s review of the Government’s science and innovation policieswhich was published in October 2007, we outline the Government’s progress in implementing the recommendations set out in Lord Sainsbury’s review.

The Government have made good progress at implementing the recommendations. All recommendations have either been implemented or are in the process of implementation.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank David Sainsbury for his work on the review, which has been a catalyst for our further work on science and innovation.

Terrorism: Control Order Powers

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing (Tony McNulty) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Section 14(1) of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 (the 2005 Act) requires the Home Secretary to report to Parliament as soon as reasonably practicable after the end of every relevant three-month period on the exercise of the control order powers during that period.

The level of information provided will always be subject to slight variations based on operational advice.

Control orders continue to be an essential tool to protect the public from terrorism, particularly where it is not possible to prosecute individuals for terrorism-related activity and, in the case of foreign nationals, where they cannot be removed from the UK.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page