Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page



1 Apr 2008 : Column WS85



1 Apr 2008 : Column WS85

Written Statements

Tuesday 1 April 2008

Children: Childcare

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

Following a Statement I made to the House on 26 July 2007 (Official Report, col. 103WS), and in agreement with my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Children, Schools and Families (Kevin Brennan), and the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services in the Welsh Assembly Government (Gwenda Thomas), I am delighted to inform the House that two key reforms to the childcare proceedings system have today come into force in England and Wales.

The Public Law Outline has been introduced to replace the existing Protocol for Judicial Case Management in Public Law Children Act Cases. This is underpinned by revised statutory guidance to local authorities in England and Wales issued under Section 7 of the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970 to support them in preparing care applications to the court.

Together these key reforms, which arose from the recommendations of the Review of the Child Care Proceedings System in England and Wales in May 2006, seek to ensure that vulnerable children involved in care cases have safety and stability in their lives and that decisions as to their future are made fairly and as speedily as possible. It is vital that all agencies work together collaboratively to establish safe, permanent and timely child focused solutions and reduce the stress caused by unnecessary delay in care proceedings.

In order to further interagency unity, a partnership of government departments and agencies commissioned Children Law UK to deliver training courses to support the introduction of the Public Law Outline and revised statutory guidance. Twenty-five interdisciplinary seminars took place in England and Wales between January and March 2008, attended by nearly 2,000 people. Delegates included social workers, local authority legal advisers, legal practitioners, family court staff, and CAFCASS and CAFCASS Cymru staff. The seminars were delivered by family legal and social work experts who provided the attendees with the skills and knowledge necessary to cascade the training to their peers.

The revised statutory guidance places greater emphasis on the work undertaken by local authorities before care proceedings can commence. In particular, they are required to notify parents of their intention to make an application to the court and to set out the basis of their concerns and an outline of their future plans for the child. On receipt of this, parents have immediate access to non-means-tested legal help from a solicitor, funded by the Legal Services Commission, with the aim of avoiding proceedings or narrowing the issues to be determined by the court.



1 Apr 2008 : Column WS86

Where cases do proceed to court, the Public Law Outline introduces a more streamlined court process, reducing the current six stages to four. It promotes better quality applications through following the revised local authority guidance; requires timetables for the court process to be set which are focused on the needs of the children involved; and introduces enhanced case management procedures which include earlier identification of the key issues leading to better targeted and effective use of experts’ evidence in those cases where it is required.

The final versions of the Public Law Outline and local authority guidance have been prepared with input from a wide range of stakeholders. A full public consultation on the revised statutory guidance was undertaken during 2007, while the Public Law Outline was tested in 10 care centres and their linked family proceedings courts selected by Sir Mark Potter, president of the Family Division, in consultation with relevant designated family judges. The experiences of the 10 initiative areas have played a crucial role in helping to inform both final versions of these key reforms, and the nationwide implementation plans.

Copies of the Public Law Outline and the revised statutory guidance have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Her Majesty’s Courts Service

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 (Jack Straw) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Lord Chief Justice and I are today issuing the following joint Statement.

In January this year we announced the main principles of a partnership between us, as Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice, in relation to the governance, resourcing and operation of the courts. A new framework document for Her Majesty’s Courts Service (Cm 7350) has today been laid before the House, which sets out our partnership in greater detail and gives effect to its provisions.

Our partnership builds on a series of recent developments including the concordat agreed in January 2004 between our predecessors, the creation of HMCS in April 2005, the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 and finally the creation of the Ministry of Justice in May 2007. The concordat contained provisions in paragraphs 24 and 25 for the engagement of the Lord Chief Justice and judiciary in the resourcing of HMCS. We have agreed that these provisions are superseded by the new and more extensive arrangements put in place by the HMCS framework document.

The new arrangements place the leadership and broad direction of HMCS in the hands of a new board with an independent non-executive chair. We are pleased to announce the appointment of Sir Duncan Nichol to this position with effect from today, for a period of three years. Sir Duncan has extensive experience in public service delivery within the justice system and more widely.



1 Apr 2008 : Column WS87

The founding principles of our partnership are a firm and shared commitment to the delivery of an efficient and effective 21st century justice system and upholding the independence of the judiciary. We look forward to working closely with Sir Duncan and the new board in achieving our shared aims and endeavours.

Courts: Dedicated Drug Pilots

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 (Jack Straw) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Further to my Statement on prison policy on 31 January 2008 (Official Report, col. 37WS), I am pleased to announce that the evaluation of the dedicated drug court pilots has now been completed. Copies of the Dedicated Drug Court Pilots: A Process Report have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses, the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. The report is also available online at www.justice.gov.uk/publications/research010408.htm.

The dedicated drug court model establishes a new framework in the magistrates’ courts in dealing with drug misusing offenders committing low-level crime to fund their addiction, aiming to reduce their drug misuse and therefore their associated offending behaviour. The model makes use of specialist panels of magistrates or district judges to provide continuity when sentencing and reviewing offenders’ progress on drug treatment orders to completion or any breach, seeking to improve offenders’ motivation to stay in treatment and so reduce drug use and related offending.

Pilots were launched at Leeds and West London magistrates’ courts in December 2005. An independent evaluation of these pilots has now been completed. The process report published today provides positive indications of the impact of continuity of judiciary on several key outcomes, including offenders being less likely to miss a court hearing, less likely to be reconvicted and more likely to complete their community order.

The dedicated drug court model will now be extended to up to four more sites. This will allow the viability of the model to be tested in an increased number of sites and the conclusions of the current evaluation to be strengthened with evidence from an increased number of cases. The new pilot sites will be selected through consultation with the judiciary, court staff and other key partners and the pilots will commence in October 2008.

Defence Exports

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office & Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (Lord Jones of Birmingham): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (John Hutton) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.



1 Apr 2008 : Column WS88

The Prime Minister’s Statement of 25 July 2007 (Official Report, col. 83WS) announced a machinery of government transfer moving responsibility for defence trade promotion from the Defence Export Services Organisation (DESO) to UK Trade and Investment (UKTI). As outlined in my Ministerial Statement of 11 December 2007 (Official Report, col. 16WS), this transfer takes place today, 1 April 2008, with the launch of the new UKTI Defence and Security Organisation (UKTI DSO).

This Statement is made in close consultation with my colleagues the Secretary of State for Defence and the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. With this transfer, ministerial responsibility for trade and investment in the defence and security sectors now rests with the Minister of State for Trade and Investment, a joint BERR and FCO Minister. Close links with MoD Ministers will be maintained.

The Government remain fully committed to supporting the defence sector and its continued export success. Defence equipment manufacture is highly important to our economy and the creation of the new UKTI Defence and Security Organisation (UKTI DSO) will allow us to develop our support for the defence sector building on the good work of DESO in the past and taking advantage of UKTI's experience in helping other sectors.

In line with normal machinery of government transfers, the relevant resources transfer at current levels from MoD to UKTI (and its parent departments BERR and FCO). Some 240 posts and the associated resources transfer with effect from 1 April, 200 in the UK and 40 overseas. To ensure UKTI DSO has continued defence expertise, around half of the posts will be filled by military and civilian staff on loan from the MoD. The remaining posts will be filled by staff transferring permanently.

A new security directorate is being established within the UKTI Defence and Security Organisation, to enhance the support provided to business in the military and civil security sector. This will bring together support previously provided separately by DESO and UKTI into a coherent and co-ordinated national effort to help UK companies in this increasingly important area of the economy to win business from overseas government and business customers.

This transfer will also enable us to enhance support for defence exportsin a way which emphasises our commitment to the highest business standards. The UKTI Defence and Security Organisation will seek to assist the defence industry to achieve a more consistent performance across industry as a whole, demonstrably supporting good governance and responding to the compelling business case for transparency and ethical behaviour.

The UKTI Defence and Security Organisation will continue to have strong links to the MoD. Arrangements have been formally set out in a service level agreement—SLA—between UKTI and MoD, published today, 1 April 2008, a copy of which will be placed in the Libraries of the House. The terms of the SLA include the provision support for overseas campaigns, ongoing

1 Apr 2008 : Column WS89

engagement of Defence Ministers, and the loan from the MoD to UKTI of both military and civilian personnel.

In line with the Prime Minister’s Statement and my previous Statement, no changes are envisaged to existing and planned agreements between the MoD and other governments. The MoD export licensing function, previously part of DESO, is being retained within MoD.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office Services: Trading Fund

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.

FCO Services today becomes a trading fund of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Mr Christopher Moxey was appointed as chief executive when FCO Services became an executive agency in April 2006 and will continue in that role for the FCO Services trading fund. The necessary statutory instrument comes into effect today (SI 2008/590).

FCO Services is our in-house support organisation, delivering key services to enable our global network to function efficiently. It protects our staff, buildings and communications from the wide variety of threats they continually face in many parts of the world and has particular expertise in secure logistics, secure IT and in the security of buildings. It is already a substantial business employing nearly 1,000 staff and with an estimated turnover of around £125 million in 2007-08.

As an executive agency FCO Services has made real progress in customer satisfaction, internal efficiency and financial performance. I am now moving it to trading fund status where the additional commercial disciplines and freedoms will enable it to enhance service delivery and innovation and improve overall value for money. FCO Services will remain part of the FCO as a trusted partner under our overall strategic direction. The FCO will be assured of a continuing reliable supply of vital support services.

At the same time we will ensure that all the services FCO Services provides will be regularly tested and benchmarked for value for money; FCO Services will be encouraged to increase business with non-FCO customers, enabling it to finance its own investment plans and deliver economies of scale to the FCO. The more arm’s-length management arrangement will free up FCO resources to focus on the Government’s strategic priorities abroad. This move is in the best interests of the FCO, the Government and the taxpayer.

In his Written Ministerial Statement of 18 March, my noble friend Lord Malloch-Brown announced a set of key targets for FCO Services in 2008-09 to encourage the creation of a stable business and improvements in performance. FCO Services will report to Parliament on its success against these targets in its 2008-09 annual report.



1 Apr 2008 : Column WS90

Copies of the new framework document covering FCO Services’ role and responsibilities will be placed in the Library of the House. A copy will also be available on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website at www.fco.gov.uk.

Gypsies and Travellers

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 am today publishing the Government’s response to The Road Ahead: Final Report of the Independent Task Group on Site Provision and Enforcement for Gypsies and Travellers.

In 2006, the Government appointed Sir Brian Briscoe to chair a task group to examine the barriers local authorities face in taking effective enforcement action against unauthorised encampments and developments by Gypsies and Travellers. We were pleased to accept the task group’s request that its terms of reference be amended to include an examination of the barriers to effective site provision. The task group published its final report in December 2007 and made 36 recommendations which covered the roles of central and local government as well as a range of other stakeholders.

The Government’s approach balances firm but fair enforcement against those who camp on land without permission or who breach development control, with proactive measures to increase site provision. We are pleased that the task group agreed that this is the right approach.

In our response, the Government are today announcing our intention to provide an annual policy update to Parliament on Gypsy and Traveller issues, as well as to co-ordinate an annual meeting between the Department for Communities and Local Government and the organisations represented on the task group, or its successors.

Copies of the publication are available in the Libraries of both Houses.

Health: Cardiovascular Disease

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health (Alan Johnson) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Prime Minister set out his vision for the NHS earlier this year: a more personal service supporting people to stay well and maintain good health. It placed individuals’ centre stage, engaged and taking greater control over their own health. He promised to set out plans for a “predict and prevent” approach to identify vulnerability to vascular disease—heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease.

I am pleased to announce the development of a systematic programme of vascular checks for everyone between the ages of 40 and 74. Putting Prevention First explains this in more detail and has been placed in the Library. Copies are available to honourable Members from the Vote Office.



1 Apr 2008 : Column WS91

Independent Safeguarding Authority

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Identity (Meg Hillier) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Further to the Written Statement made by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families on 17 March, I am pleased to announce plans for the work of the new Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA), together with the fee to be charged for applications.

The Independent Safeguarding Authority was established in January this year under powers in the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006. It will meet the aims of one of the key recommendations made by the Bichard inquiry, which pointed to the need for a scheme to register those seeking work with children or other vulnerable groups.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page