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Written Statements

Tuesday 18 March 2008

Anti-social Behaviour: Youth Task Force

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

Today I am publishing the action plan for the youth task force. The youth task force in my department was created in October 2007 from the respect task force to build on the Government’s success in tackling anti-social behaviour. Copies will be placed in the Libraries of the House.

The new task force will concentrate on the minority of young people who get into serious trouble, including anti-social behaviour, and cause serious problems in their neighbourhoods. It will work with local partners—children’s services, the police, schools and community safety teams—to ensure that across the country every area has an effective approach for dealing with young people in serious difficulty.

The approach needed to change young people’s behaviour and deal with the problems that concern communities must combine:

tough enforcement where young people’s behaviour is unacceptable;non-negotiable support to help young people overcome underlying problems where they have arisen; and prevention to ensure we are dealing with emerging problems before they become serious and entrenched.

Working with the Home Office—which retains responsibility for the overall response to anti-social behaviour—and other departments across government as well as local areas, the youth task force will help to ensure that young people and their families get the right package of intervention, challenge and support not only to curtail bad behaviour but to change it.

This action plan sets out 18 commitments it will deliver, and a total funding package of up to £218.5 million. Key measures include:

new intensive intervention projects to address the most challenging young people. We will apply the principles used successfully in family intervention projects (FIPs) to the most challenging and anti-social young people. Over 80 per cent of families involved in a FIP reduced or ceased anti-social behaviour. I will invest £13 million over three years to establish 20 pioneering schemes to turn round the lives of around 1,000 of the most challenging young people each year;new early intervention challenge and support projects. These projects will systematically identify young people involved in or at risk of anti-social

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behaviour and crime, and intervene early to nip problems in the bud. Help will be offered, but will not be optional; where necessary, tools like parenting orders and individual support orders, which are court orders, will be used to make individuals take the help they need. I will invest £13 million over three years to work with around 15,000 young people involved in or at risk of anti-social behaviour per year;continued investment to support local services to tackle anti-social behaviour. Over the next three years the Government will continue to invest more than £100 million to support action to tackle anti-social behaviour: anti-social behaviour teams in every area; the successful national network of family intervention projects tackling the most anti-social families; and parenting experts working with families of young people behaving badly.helping every local authority area put in place the targeted youth support reforms by December 2008. The youth task force will put additional resources into reforming support services for at risk teenagers in England. This will enable local authorities to identify vulnerable young people early, provide swift support to stop problems from escalating, and ensure young people receive joined-up, effective support and challenge through multi-agency teams. I will invest £5 million to provide expert support from the Training and Development Agency (TDA) to help local areas implement the reforms, with most help to those areas facing the greatest challenges;increasing young people’s participation in positive activities. I set out in Aiming High For Young People: A Ten Year Strategy for Positive Activities the importance of enabling young people to take part in constructive activities in their leisure time. Well-supported activities also increase community cohesion by bridging gaps between young and old, and between different income, ethnic and faith groups. The task force will support implementation of Aiming High by working with 50 local areas to target activity and invest £22.5 million next year to increase young people’s participation in activities in the most deprived areas, and to make sure that facilities are there, and open at the times young people and communities need them—Friday and Saturday nights; andhelping every parent do their best for their child. In the Children’s Plan I made it clear that the state does not bring up children—parents do. But parents are a key influence and I am making extra help available to ensure they meet their responsibilities. I will invest up to £60 million to expand the successful Parenting Early Intervention Pathfinders. These projects have improved the support available for parents of children aged eight to 13 at risk in 18 areas across the country. They have almost halved the number of parents who considered their children have significant behavioural difficulties. We will expand this programme over the next three years to the majority of local authorities, to reach more than 18,000 people each year and ensure that more parents receive the support they need to help with their child’s behaviour.

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Bangladesh: English Language Skills

Baroness Crawley: My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development (Douglas Alexander) has made the following Statement.

At the request of the Bangladesh Government, the UK has approved £50 million over nine years for an ambitious programme which will significantly increase English language skills for 27 million people in Bangladesh. This will make a valuable and lasting contribution to economic and social development in that country.

English in Action is an innovative and comprehensive programme that will target a number of different ages and groups. In particular, it will make more young Bangladeshis ready for employment. It will provide teachers at primary and secondary level with a firm foundation for teaching English; and it will offer opportunities for using and practising English in a variety of economic and social contexts. The programme will also address a major skills gap in the Bangladesh workforce and will help the country become more competitive in both internal and international labour markets.

Designed to reach approximately 27 million people, English in Action will make use of rapidly expanding mobile phone technology in Bangladesh. It will use television and radio to stimulate interest and debate, and to reach the maximum number of people with appropriate learning programmes. The English in Action programme will also provide a wide range of supportive printed and audio learning materials which will be available to a wide range of learners.

UK development assistance in Bangladesh promotes good governance, economic growth, trade and access to basic services. The English in Action programme will contribute to improving economic growth and to increasing the quality of education provision in Bangladesh.

A recent Bangladesh Government report identified unemployment and growing income inequality as two major constraints which may prevent the country achieving the millennium development goals. English in Action will be an important contribution in assisting Bangladesh to overcome such constraints and to improve the livelihoods of its people.

We will continue to provide significant support for Bangladesh as an emerging economy and confident, stable state into the 21st century.

Building Regulations

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): My right honourable friend the Minister for Housing and Planning (Caroline Flint) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am today publishing a consultation document on proposals for the future development of the building control system.

Home owners have the right to expect their homes to be built and renovated to minimum standards set

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out in building regulations. I want to make life more difficult for the cowboy builders that are out there while letting the high-quality majority of the industry get on with the job. This should reduce the cost and burden of the process on both the industry and local authorities.

The building control system is critical to our ability to deliver a range of wider aims on housing supply, sustainability and other key health and safety-related issues. Following discussion with stakeholders over the past two years it has become apparent that while the system is not broken, there are a number of issues which needed to be addressed to ensure that the system is fit for purpose now and in the future.

This consultation document also ensures we have a customer-focused building control system in which industry is able to plan with certainty and which is fully able to support the delivery of our housing supply and zero carbon housing targets in a way which delivers high levels of compliance at a reduced burden to industry and other stakeholders.

This consultation follows the paper published in March 2007 which set out the key areas for reform that we believed had the potential to address the main weaknesses in the system.

The proposals fall into the following five areas:

developing a vision for building control;establishing a better approach to the way we deliver regulations and guidance;modernising inspection and enforcement;providing alternative routes to compliance; andenabling improved performance and capacity.

The consultation is accompanied by impact assessments. Copies are available in the Libraries of both Houses or it can be accessed via the Communities and Local Government website at

Consultation closes on 10 June 2008.

Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill

Lord Davies of Oldham: I have made a Statement under Section 19(1)(a) of the Human Rights Act 1998 that, in my view, the provisions of the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill are compatible with the convention rights. A copy of the Statement has been deposited in the Library of the House.

EU: General Affairs and External Relations Council

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): My honourable friend the Minister for Europe (Jim Murphy) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary (David Miliband), my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Consumer Affairs (Gareth Thomas) and I represented the UK at the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) in Brussels on 10 March 2008.

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The agenda items covered were as follows:

General Affairs

Preparation of the European Council

The council discussed preparations for the European Council on 13 and 14 March. The European Council will focus on the launch of a new three-year cycle of the EU’s strategy for growth and jobs; an integrated climate and energy policy; and the stability of financial markets.

My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary supported the presidency’s focus on delivering for the EU’s citizens, and agreed with the priorities identified for action, particularly in taking forward the EU’s commitment to delivering on the ambitious climate change goals set last year at the spring European Council and the need for the EU to lead wider international work towards a comprehensive climate change agreement for the post-2012 period.

My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary emphasised the need for urgency from the European Council on delivery of the EU’s ambitious climate change goals; in particular, a mechanism to deliver the carbon capture and storage demonstration plants promised by the 2007 spring European Council; and the centrality of ETS to tackling climate change. He also stressed the importance of Europe not retreating into economic protectionism.

External Relations

Doha Development Agenda

Commissioner Mandelson updated the council on prospects for negotiations on the World Trade Organisation's Doha Development Agenda (DDA).

The Government agreed council conclusions that reaffirmed the importance of achieving a comprehensive, ambitious and balanced final outcome in all areas of the DDA, which would meet both the EU’s objectives and the needs and interests of developing countries, in particular the least developed countries (LDCs). My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Consumer Affairs supported the Commission’s efforts to move the DDA negotiations forward. The council agreed that the GAERC should convene a special meeting to coincide with possible WTO ministerial negotiations in Geneva.


Ministers had an exchange of views on the EU's co-operation with Georgia, and discussed the EU's provision of support for electoral reform, which the Government support, in the run-up to parliamentary elections in may 2008.


The Government agreed council conclusions that underlined the EU’s concerns about the humanitarian, political and economic situation in Zimbabwe and conditions on the ground; urged the Government of Zimbabwe to ensure that the forthcoming elections meet international norms and standards; and welcomed President Mbeki’s mediation efforts on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

I intervened to underline that the conditions for forthcoming elections were extremely poor and to regret that the EU had not been invited to send observers.

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Foreign Ministers had an exchange of views following the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1803. Ministers agreed that UNSCR 1803 clearly indicated that the international community remained united on the issue of Iran’s nuclear ambitions. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary underlined the importance of the EU maintaining pressure on Iran to comply with its international obligations.

Middle East Peace Process

High Representative Solana briefed Ministers on his visit to the region on 2-5 March. The EU expressed concern at the worsening situation, following the recent escalation of violence in Gaza and southern Israel, as well as the 6 March killings at a Jewish seminary in Jerusalem.

Ministers also expressed concern about the recent approval of settlement activity by the Israeli Government at Givat Ze’ev. The EU continues to make it clear that settlement building anywhere in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is illegal under international law and presents an obstacle to peace.

Western Balkans

Over lunch, Foreign Ministers discussed recent developments in Kosovo and the Western Balkans.

The council agreed conclusions on Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), welcoming the unanimous decision of the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board that the Office of the High Representative should remain in place until the necessary objectives and conditions are met. The council also gave full support to BiH’s EU perspective, and urged the authorities to do everything necessary to fulfil the four conditions necessary for signing the stabilisation and association agreement.

The council also adopted conclusions on the Regional Co-operation Council reaffirming the EU’s commitment to the RCC as a framework for the countries of south- eastern Europe to promote stability, democracy, respect for human rights and economic prosperity.

US visa waiver scheme

The Slovenian presidency briefed Ministers on discussions with the US on the visa waiver programme and an exchange of views followed. The Government support the Commission in its wish to reach an agreement with the US on this issue.


The council agreed conclusions reaffirming the EU's commitment to long-term support for Afghanistan and promotion of Afghan leadership, good governance and the development of a democratic, secure and sustainable Afghan state with respect for human rights and the rule of law. The council also expressed support for an international conference in Paris in June to review implementation of the Afghanistan compact and welcomed the progress of the EU police mission towards full deployment by the end of March 2008.


The Government agreed council conclusions on Pakistan’s February elections as an important step in the development of Pakistan’s democracy. The conclusions

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also commit the EU to supporting Pakistan in strengthening democratic institutions, promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as combating extremism, while promoting development and economic growth, through trade in particular. The council agreed the EU’s intention to review its policy towards Pakistan in support of these objectives.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Performance Targets

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): FCO Services will become a trading fund of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) on 1 April 2008. I have set the following performance targets for 2008-09:

an in-year surplus before interest and tax of at least £1.3 million;a return on capital employed of at least 3.5 per cent (weighted average);a wider market revenue growth of 10 per cent on that achieved in 2007-08, assessed on a normalised baseline;a customer satisfaction rating derived from an independent, quantitative survey of at least 85 per cent satisfied or very satisfied;a utilisation rate of revenue earning staff of at least 65 per cent; anda contribution to the FCO’s Comprehensive Spending Review commitments by delivering £2 million of cash savings, achieved through price stabilisation.

FCO Services will report to Parliament on its success against these targets through its annual report for 2008-09.

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