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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.
During the passage of the Offender Management Bill last year, the Government signalled a move away from a target-based regime in which probation areas had to outsource a proportion of their work to a model based on the principles of best value. In
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The proposed best-value model would apply to all services funded by probation boards and trusts. It would enable boards and trusts to demonstrate, in a transparent way, the value for money of their services, and to drive improvements in the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of their service delivery. Best value reviews would be based around five areasconsult, compare, challenge, collaborate and, where appropriate, compete. The reviews may result in the competition of services, but only if they have shown that that would be the most efficient and effective delivery option. The best-value process is neutral as to the final result. By delivering efficiency savings, best value will provide value for money to the taxpayer and, by improving the effectiveness of service delivery to offenders, it will contribute towards our aim of reducing re-offending.
Copies of the consultation document will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses. Copies will also be available in the Vote Office and Printed Paper Office and on the internet at www.justice.gov.uk/publications/consultations.htm.
We are gravely concerned about the situation in Gaza. The closure of Gazas crossings is contributing to the collapse of the economy. There are shortages of essential humanitarian supplies such as medicines, foodstuffs and hearing aids. Restrictions on supplies of fuel and electricity have led to widespread power cuts and water shortages. While we fully understand Israels security concerns, we do not support the decision to close Gaza crossings. The Foreign Secretary and I have called on Israel to open them, and to lift all restrictions immediately on humanitarian supplies and electricity. While resolving the humanitarian situation is in the hands of the parties concerned, we are doing what we can to help alleviate the situation.
In order to address the humanitarian situation, to support the Palestinian economy and to meet the urgent funding needs of the Palestinian Authority, we intend to provide an additional £30 million in support to the Palestinians in 2007-08, taking our total contribution to £63.6 million for this financial year. This is part of the pledge of up to £243 million over three years, linked to political progress, which I announced at the Paris donor conference last December. The UK is leading the international community in following through on its Paris pledges promptly, providing funding when it is most needed before other pledges come through.
This new funding will strengthen the Palestinian Authoritys ability to take forward reform at a critical time. It will help pay teachers, doctors and engineers, keep basic services running and meet the budget shortfall
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All funding will be delivered through reputable international institutions and safeguards will be put in place to ensure it is properly used. Our support for the Palestinian Authority will be routed through the World Bank and the ECs new aid fund known as PEGASE.
DfIDs support for Gazans includes our agreement to provide £100 million over five years to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). UNRWA provides healthcare, housing, education and food to Palestinian refugees across the Middle East. Seventy per cent of people in Gaza are refugees who will benefit directly from this assistance.
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.
Before October 1998, there were no checks in the system to prevent the sale of school playing fields. Local authorities could sell school playing fields and use the proceeds for whatever purpose they saw fit.
Since 1998, under Section 77 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, all local authorities and maintained schools in England have needed the consent of the Secretary of State before they can dispose of a school playing field or any part of a school playing field.
Published guidance sets out the criteria for giving consent and makes it clear that a disposal will only be allowed if the sports and curriculum needs of schools and their neighbouring schools continue to be met. Community usage of school playing fields is considered in decisions and any sale proceeds must be reinvested in outdoor sports facilities where possible, or, if not, in indoor sport or education facilities.
In addition, since July 2001 all applications to dispose of school playing fields have been scrutinised by an independent school playing fields advisory panel. The panel comprises representatives from Fields in Trust (formerly the National Playing Fields Association), the Central Council of Physical Recreation, Learning through Landscapes, the National Association of Head Teachers and the Local Government Association.
The panel advises the Secretary of State on the extent to which applications meet the published criteria for giving consent. The panel brings a rigorous independent scrutiny to the assessment process.
In November 2004, the rules governing the sale of school playing fields were tightened so that the sale of a playing field is an absolute last resort with local authorities having to demonstrate that they have exhausted all other sources of funding. Sale proceeds must be used to improve outdoor sports facilities where possible and new sports facilities must be sustainable for at least 10 years.
This Government have not committed themselves to end the sale of surplus school playing fields in any circumstances. What we did commit to end was the previous position of putting local authorities in a position where they had to sell those fields simply to pay for essential repairs. Our record levels of capital investment in schoolsfrom under £700 million in 1996-97 to more than £8 billion by 2011have also helped bring that situation to an end. One thousand one hundred completely new schools have already been builtwith brand new sports facilities and outdoor play areas. Another 2,450 schools have made massive improvements to sports provision, with newly built sports halls, all-weather pitches, gyms, playgrounds or changing rooms.
This Government legislated to ensure that school playing fields are sold only where they are genuinely surplus to local needs, including those of neighbouring schools. This Government have ensured that the proceeds of sales are invested mainly in providing new sports facilities, including new grassed pitches, all-weather pitches and sports halls. Where no sports improvements are needed, the money from sales must be used to improve educational facilities.
|Approved applications to sell an area of land capable of being used as a small sports pitch of 2,000m2 in 2007|
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