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Written Statements

Thursday 3 July 2008

Armed Forces: Future Aircraft Carriers

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

I informed the House on 20 May (Official Report, col. 15WS) of our intention to sign the contracts for the manufacture of the aircraft carriers HMS “Queen Elizabeth” and HMS “Prince of Wales” once the proposed joint venture BVT Surface Fleet had formed. I am pleased to inform the House that, following formation of the company, we will today sign the contract and alliance agreement for manufacture of the two future aircraft carriers. The carriers will support a step change in our ability to project expeditionary air power over the coming decades and during their construction are expected to create or sustain 10,000 jobs across the UK.

Children: Children’s Plan

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

In the Children’s Plan, which I presented to Parliament in December 2007, the Government set out their ambition to make this country the best place in the world for young people to grow up. As part of this we committed to world-class standards in education; a new role for schools as the centre of their communities; and more effective links between schools, health and other children’s services, brought together by children’s trusts in every area, so that together they can tackle all the barriers to the learning, health and happiness of every child.

Today we are taking the next steps to make a reality of these ambitions, and are publishing three consultation documents, copies of which I have placed in the Library of the House. They each draw heavily on the experience, best practice and views of local authorities, schools and other key partners, for which I am most grateful.

Schools have traditionally taken a broad view of education as the development of the whole child, in order to tackle all the barriers to learning inside and outside the school, so that every child can fulfil their potential and get the good qualifications they need. The Government have supported this by placing on schools a duty to promote the well-being of their pupils. This means they have a duty to support the development of all their pupils across all five Every Child Matters outcomes, so that they are healthy, safe, able to enjoy and achieve their potential, secure economic well-being and can make a positive contribution.

The first of the three consultation documents is draft guidance to schools, which explains in more detail what is meant by “promoting well-being” and

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what support schools should expect from their local authority and other partners in their children’s trust. At the heart of the Children’s Plan is the vision of a “21st century school”: a school which achieves high standards and embraces its role in the wider development of young people, in support of its core mission of ensuring through excellent teaching and learning that all children achieve their potential, and in partnership with parents, other schools and other local agencies. Schools need to be well supported by, and able to work effectively with, a range of other partners including statutory services and the voluntary and community sector, and children’s trust arrangements are intended to bring together all these services locally.

The second document consults on how we should strengthen children’s trusts in order to deliver for all children and young people; to ensure schools consistently get the timely support they need; to narrow gaps in outcomes between disadvantaged young people and their peers; and to take action early where children have additional needs. A great deal is being achieved by leading local areas within the existing framework, and the challenge now is to ensure that good practice is widely implemented and deeply embedded. There is now a strong case for strengthening the statutory basis of children’s trusts on the model of existing good practice.

Schools are key partners for children’s trusts at the local and neighbourhood level, and are well placed to give early warning when things are going wrong for young people. To achieve the objectives of the Children’s Plan, schools must be effectively supported by wider children’s services and involved in determining the strategic direction and commissioning arrangements for those services at board level. Strong collaborative working of this kind is generally welcomed in principle, but in practice can be difficult to achieve. This was a key message from our recent consultation on our draft supplementary guidance to local authorities and others on the “duty to co-operate” (children’s trust guidance).

The second document proposes a number of changes to the current framework for children’s trusts. These include extending responsibility for children and young people’s plans and being clearer about what they should cover, extending the “duty to co-operate” to schools, and requiring through statute the creation of children’s trust boards with a defined set of functions and responsibilities. Our proposals include:

requiring all areas to have a children and young people’s plan, and extending ownership of the plan to all statutory partners. Children and young people’s plans are currently local authority plans, although they must consult with other partners and the plans must cover the full range of outcomes for children. Extending responsibility for the plan to all partners covered by the duty to co-operate would mean that the plan becomes the shared responsibility of the children’s trust board; strengthening the statutory framework for children and young people’s plans through secondary legislation. This could include clarifying that plans must be agreed by all partners, set out the arrangements for early intervention, including for the children’s workforce, and specify the spend of each partner on areas such as child health and

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youth offending, in particular those covered by local joint commissioning arrangements. This would establish a higher baseline for the quality of plans, in line with the best practice already established in many areas;extending the “duty to co-operate” to schools, schools forums and sixth-form and further education colleges, with future academies brought within the scope through their funding agreements. This duty currently applies to local authorities, primary care trusts and other strategic partners. Extending the duty to front-line providers of education would give them corresponding rights within trusts to a stronger voice, more influence over their strategic arrangements and better support from other statutory partners; and establishing a stronger statutory basis for children’s trust boards, on the model of existing good practice and with significant local flexibility. Leading local areas have already put in place children’s trust boards, which have the representation and functions that primary or secondary legislation could prescribe for all. Setting out core membership and functions in legislation could help secure more consistent performance and more robust operation of children’s trusts. An alternative would be to create reserve powers for Ministers to direct areas when local arrangements are not operating successfully.

I have invited comments on these proposals and on what other changes to primary or secondary legislation should be considered in this area, for example to ensure the voluntary and third sectors can play a full role in local children’s services.

The third document relates specifically to the local authority’s strategic leadership role in promoting high standards in education, as established by the Education and Inspections Act 2006. This is a key part of their wider role in promoting the well-being of all children and young people in their local area. The 2006 Act provides the current legal framework for schools causing concern, and makes a crucial contribution to school improvement by enabling early action by local authorities to improve school performance.

Local authorities may already consider a formal warning notice which allows them to employ a range of intervention powers, even where Ofsted has not graded the school as “inadequate”. It is important that these powers are used when it is appropriate, because they are designed to address issues where schools are underperforming before they become more serious. As announced to Parliament on 10 June 2008 as part of our national challenge proposals, the Government propose, subject to the agreement of Parliament, to take a new legislative power in the Education and Skills Bill to require authorities to consider formal warning notices when these are clearly justified by the school’s performance, and propose to extend the current power to require authorities to take additional advisory services where this is necessary.

The Children’s Plan set out a vision in which local authorities, schools and other local providers work together and support each other, both in setting the direction and in driving delivery. The three documents published today, taken together, give us a framework that will help make this vision a reality. The consultations will remain open until 25 September 2008.

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Constitutional Reform: Governance of Britain

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.

On 3 July 2007 (Official Report, col. 815), the Prime Minister made a Statement to Parliament publishing the Governance of Britain Green Paper. The Green Paper set out a route map for further constitutional reform, better to strengthen the relationship between government, Parliament and the citizen, and to take steps towards a new constitutional settlement. This builds on fundamental reforms carried out by the Government since 1997, including devolution for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the transformation of the role of the Lord Chancellor, the introduction of a Supreme Court, the Human Rights Act and the Freedom of Information Act.

Renewing our democracy is at the heart of our reforms, building a new relationship between citizens and government and ensuring that the rights of individuals are fully respected.

One year on, much progress has been made against the Governance of Britain ambitions.

Limiting the powers of the Executive

The Government committed to surrendering or limiting powers which they consider should not, in a modern democracy, be exercised exclusively by the Executive.

We have carried out consultations on Parliament’s role in decisions relating to the deployment of the Armed Forces into armed conflict and the ratification of treaties, the role of the Attorney-General, government’s role in judicial appointments, protests around Parliament and the flying of the union flag. Alongside the responses to the Government’s 2004 consultation on the Civil Service, these consultations informed the draft Constitutional Renewal Bill and White Paper, which are now being considered by a Joint Committee. The draft Constitutional Renewal Bill contains important measures to strengthen Parliament and make government more accountable to the people they serve.

It encompasses five areas of reform, and includes proposals to:

repeal the provisions in Sections 132 to 138 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act on protest around Parliament;reform the role of the Attorney-General;reduce the role played by the Lord Chancellor in judicial appointments;formalise the procedure for Parliament to scrutinise treaties prior to ratification; andenshrine in statute the core values of the Civil Service, as well as the historical principle of appointment on merit, and place the Civil Service Commissioners on to a statutory footing.

The Government also want Parliament to have the right to take the final decision about committing Armed Forces to armed conflict.

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Making the Executive more accountable

The Government are committed to rebalancing power between Parliament and government, and giving Parliament greater ability to hold government to account. We have:

published the draft legislative programme for scrutiny by Parliament and the public in 2007 and 2008;commenced a pilot of pre-appointment hearings for key public appointments and agreed a list of 60 suitable appointments with the Liaison Committee;published the national security strategy for the first time; andset up an independent UK Statistics Authority.

Re-invigorating our democracy

It is vital that our institutions are legitimate, trusted and responsive to the people they serve. We have:

established the Youth Citizenship Commission to look at how we can give young people a greater voice; andcommitted to extending the provisions in the Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Act 2002 beyond 2015 to allow women-only shortlists to continue to be used if necessary.

Britain’s future: the citizen and the state

The Government believe that a clearer understanding of the common core of rights, responsibilities and values that go with British citizenship will help build our sense of shared identity and social cohesion. Lord Goldsmith’s review of citizenship was launched on 5 October 2007 and reported to the Prime Minister in March 2008. Constitutional renewal in the UK is a long-term dialogue, and in the coming months:

we will publish a White Paper setting out the Government’s proposals for fundamental reform of the House of Lords; andthe Department for Communities and Local Government will publish a White Paper this summer setting out the Government's proposals to empower individuals and communities by involving them in the design and delivery of local public services and promoting civic and democratic life.

Further details of the progress on the commitments in the Green Paper are set out in the table entitled “The Governance of Britain Green Paper: One Year On”. Copies of this table have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Questions for Written Answer: Correction to Commons Answer

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Transport (Rosie Winterton) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

I regret to inform the House that the Answer I gave on 7 February to a Parliamentary Question (Official Report, col. 1422W], about traffic signs for the central London congestion charging scheme was not sufficiently clear in respect of advance warning signs for the scheme.

The Answer should read as follows:

The department has authorised the design of 28 traffic signs and road markings for the central London congestion charging scheme under Sections 64 and 65

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of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. These designs have been placed in the Libraries of the House. The table below shows when these authorisations were provided:

Traffic signs (numbers)Date authorised


7 August 2002


29 November 2002


6 January 2005


14 November 2005


1 November 2006

In addition, the department authorised:

the use of sign number 6 from the above table, with the motorway telephone symbol, as shown in traffic signs regulations and general directions diagram 2713.1 (15 January 2003) ; andthe legend “Avoiding Charge” to be placed on advance direction signs (9 May 2005).

There are no drawings for these signs.

The authorisation to place non-prescribed traffic signs in respect of the central London congestion charging scheme, dated 7 August 2002, requires signs indicating the entry and exit of the London charging zone to be placed on or near roads entering or exiting the scheme, and in sufficient numbers and in appropriate positions to indicate to all traffic entering or leaving the zone the nature of the scheme. That direction does not apply to the authorised signs warning drivers on the approaches to the zone. Those signs are therefore discretionary.

Gershon Review: Treasury

Lord Davies of Oldham: My right honourable friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Yvette Cooper) has made the following Written Statement.

Today I am launching the operational efficiency programme, the latest phase of our drive to ensure that taxpayers receive maximum value for money from the services they fund.

This builds on the Gershon efficiency programme, which has delivered £20 billion savings to date, and the ambitious programme announced at the Comprehensive Spending Review, which will deliver £30 billion savings by 2010-11. The operational efficiency programme will seek to learn from private and public sector expertise and experience to explore whether additional operational savings could be achieved as we prepare for the next spending period. Martin Read, Martin Jay, Gerry Grimstone and Lord Carter of Coles will lead work on the first four cross-cutting work strands, looking at back office and IT; collaborative procurement; asset management and sales; and property respectively. It will also be taking forward work in a fifth area: the incentives for staff to make improvements and cut waste at the local level and what more can be done to reduce bureaucratic burdens on the front line.

The programme will report at the 2009 Budget and will drive our value for money programme forward into the next spending review. Copies of the operational

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efficiency programme prospectus have been deposited in the Libraries of the House and are available from the Vote Office.

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