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Written Statements

Tuesday 11 November 2008

Afghanistan: Call-out

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

With the expiry of the call-out order made in November 2007, a new order has been made under Section 54 of the Reserve Forces Act 1996 to enable reservists to continue to be called out into service to support operations in Afghanistan. The new order is effective until 10 November 2009. Reservists continue to make a valuable contribution to operations in that country and some 670 reservists are currently called out in support of the operation.

Business Support

The Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (Lord Mandelson): The Government are committed to doing everything they can to ensure that appropriate lending to businesses continues. The Chancellor has already announced the creation of UK Financial Investments Ltd, which, in respect of those banks recapitalised by the Government1, will monitor compliance with the conditions we set to maintain the availability and active marketing of competitively priced lending to small businesses and homeowners.

I am today hosting the first meeting of the Small Business Finance Forum. This forum, the establishment of which was announced to the House on 24 October, brings together all banks, small business representative organisations and small businesses themselves to have an informed dialogue to discuss and resolve their concerns on business lending.

I am pleased to announce to the House that today we have agreed the establishment of a new monitoring panel on business lending. This panel, made up of senior government officials from HM Treasury and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and representatives of the Bank of England, will monitor and enter into a constructive dialogue with individual lenders on the availability, risk and overall cost of lending to small and medium-sized businesses from the five major banks2. These banks have agreed to provide, in strictest confidence, data on the availability, risk and overall cost of lending to the monitoring panel.

The establishment of the panel, and the agreement of the five major lenders to enter into a dialogue with government on this basis, demonstrates our continuing commitment to ensure that appropriate levels of finance are available for SMEs in the UK.



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Discrimination

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): My honourable friend the Minister of State, Department of Health (Phil Hope) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Government’s response to the consultation on reform of discrimination law, published on 21 July 2008, gave a commitment that the Government would make a Statement after the parliamentary recess setting out a defined programme of work to tackle age discrimination in the health and social care sectors and to help service providers prepare for legislation.

This programme of work will address age equality issues in health and social care. It will inform the implementation of the Equality Bill, planned for next Session, which, subject to parliamentary approval, will ban harmful discrimination on grounds of age against people aged 18 and over, and will also consider non-legislative measures to tackle age discrimination.

The work will be underpinned by the following principles:

age discrimination and unfair treatment based on age have no place in a fair society, which values all its members;personalisation means that individuals’ needs for health and social care should be on the basis of their individual condition and circumstances, not general assumptions about their age;services should be differentiated by age only where this is objectively justifiable; andservices for all people should be subject to achieving overall value for money in the use of public funds.

We plan to take the following action:

we shall seek views of stakeholders, including professions and service commissioners and providers via the departmental National Stakeholder Forum, the Social Partnership and the Third Sector Sounding Board, by running a learning event by the end of November 2008. This will raise awareness with a view to setting up an advisory group shortly afterwards;we shall establish an advisory group, to include key stakeholders with an interest in using, providing or commissioning services, training those who provide care, and monitoring action on age equality. The group will have a remit to produce advice to the Government, which is to include:identifying where age discrimination may occur in health and social care; setting parameters for obtaining evidence of current policies, practice and service organisation which does or may result in age discrimination;consideration of possible exceptions to a ban on unjustifiable age discrimination;consideration of what action the department and others may need to take to remove unjustifiable age discrimination in the provision, organisation and experience of health and social care; andconsideration of costs, risks and benefits of differentiation of services for different age groups, to inform a compulsory impact assessment.

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Departmental officials will support the advisory group, which will be extended and supported by:

a reference group of interested organisations and networks to get widest input and debate;sub-groups for specific areas; for instance, mental health and social care could start work on implementation plans in advance of other areas of healthcare for which evidence is not yet available; anda technical analysts’ sub-group that will give advice on evidence gathering and analysis.

We will publish a summary of the group’s discussions and any advice it produces on the department’s website and will encourage wider participation in its discussions through stakeholder engagement.

We expect that the advisory group’s work will take 18 months to complete. It will start in December 2008. An early task will be to establish provisional milestones for the phases of work, including on the key services and sectors. Emerging evidence from the work will be used as it becomes available to inform the ongoing development of policy and priorities on the provision and commissioning of health and social care, and this will contribute to discussion on action to address age equality in health and social care.

The advisory group will draw on existing departmental stakeholder networks, and new ones, such as National Voices, as they become available.

The Government will undertake consultation on possible exceptions to the ban on harmful age discrimination—in health and social care—taking account of the findings of the advisory group when it has completed its work.

Immigration: Points-based System

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My honourable friend the Minister of State for Borders and Immigration (Phil Woolas) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Throughout this year, the Government have been delivering the biggest shake-up of the immigration system for a generation. We are delivering a stronger border that maximises the use of new technology, a selective Australian-style points system to control migration and a clear expectation that newcomers earn the right to stay.

Already this year, we have made sweeping changes to our border protection, including checking fingerprints before we issue a visa, screening all travellers against watch-lists and introducing a single border force with police-like powers. Last week we laid Immigration Rules making a number of changes, including implementing the skilled and temporary worker tiers of the points-based system (PBS), to simplify the route for business visitors, and to increase the minimum age for obtaining a marriage visa from 18 to 21.

The Government are making an unprecedented investment in skills and training to ensure that UK residents do not lose out to overseas workers or see jobs go abroad because of a lack of skills. We have recently made a number of funding agreements with employers, worth £630 million over three years, to give

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them greater access to flexible, bespoke training aimed at tackling skills shortages in their sectors. These agreements cover sectors such as catering and hospitality, the nuclear industry and construction.

A fundamental part of the skilled worker tier of the points-based system is the shortage occupation lists, for the United Kingdom and Scotland. These are skilled occupations where the Government consider there are shortages so that it is sensible for vacancies to be filled by migrant workers from outside the European economic area. Migrant workers seeking to come to work in the UK score points if they are applying to work in one of these occupations.

In setting these lists I have carefully considered the advice from the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), which reported to Government on this matter in September. I am very grateful to the MAC for its independent advice. The lists are shown below.



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Government-approved UK shortage occupation list for tier 2 of the points-based system, November 2008
Related occupation title and SOC code (see notes 1 and 2)Job titles included on the shortage occupation listOther information: skills levels and review timescales (see note 3)

Managers in construction (1122)

Only the following job title within this occupation: project manager for property development and construction (see “Other information”).

The individual must lead on a project or combination of projects that would amount to a large financial responsibility (at least several million pounds). See Chapter 9 of the MAC report Skills, Shortage, Sensible for further details.

Civil engineers (2121)

All job titles within this occupation, including the following: public health engineer, rail engineer, drainage engineer, structural engineer, water engineer, geotechnical engineer, geotechnical design engineer, geotechnical specialist, tunnelling engineer, marine engineer, mining engineer, mining geotechnical engineer and petroleum engineer.

Physicists, geologists and meteorologists (2113)

Only the following job titles within this occupation: geologist, geological engineer, hydrogeologist, geophysical specialist, geological advisor, geological analyst, geological associate, geophysicist, geoscientist, geosupport engineer, contaminated land engineer, geoenvironmental engineer, reservoir panel engineer, rock mechanics engineer, soil mechanics engineer, geomechanics engineer, landfill engineer, contaminated land specialist and geoenvironmentalist.

Chemical engineers (2125)

All job titles within this occupation, including the following: chemical engineer and petrophysicist.

Medical practitioners (2211) and dental practitioners (2215)

Only the following job titles within these occupations: consultants in the field of psychiatry; consultants with the following job titles only: anaesthetics and intensive care, chemical pathology, clinical neurophysiology, clinical oncology, dermatology, genito-urinary medicine, haematology, immunology, neurology, occupational medicine, oral and maxillo-facial surgery, orthodontics, paediatrics, paediatric dentistry, plastic surgery and renal medicine.

MAC to review evidence by March 2009.

Veterinarians (2216)

Only the following job title within this occupation: veterinary surgeon (see “Other information”).

The individual must be registered as a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons to work in the UK.

Biological scientists and biochemists (2112), psychologists (2212), pharmacists/pharmacologists (2213), medical radiographers (3214), pharmaceutical dispensers (3217), medical and dental technicians (3218), occupational therapists (3222), speech and language therapists (3223) and therapists n.e.c. (3229)

Only the following job titles within these occupations: audiological scientist (within 2112); band 6 and above biomedical scientist (within 2112); state-registered scientist in cytogenetics (within 2112); clinical psychologist (within 2212); pharmacist (within 2213); ultrasonographer (within 3214); HPC-registered radiographer (within 3214); pharmacy technician (within 3217); audiologist (within 3218); occupational therapist engaged at band 7 or 8 of the Agenda for Change scale or their independent sector equivalents (within 3222); speech and language therapist employed or engaged at band 7 or 8 or their independent sector equivalents (within 3223); orthoptist (within 3229); and band 7 dietician (within 3229).

MAC to review evidence by March 2009.

Secondary education teaching professionals (2314)

Only the following job title within this occupation: secondary education teacher within the subjects of maths and science.

MAC to review evidence by March 2009.

Quantity surveyors (2433)

All job titles within this occupation.

Nurses (3211)

Only the following job titles within this occupation: registered nurse employed or engaged at band 7 or 8 of the Agenda for Change scale or their independent sector equivalents; registered nurse at band 5 or above employed or engaged in the following specialities: operating theatre nurse, anaesthetic nurse, operating department practitioner, scrub nurse, theatre nurse, critical care (nurses working in critical units with a level 2 or 3 classification).

MAC to review evidence by March 2009.

Engineering technicians (3113)

Only the following job title within this occupation: aircraft component manufacturing engineer.

Dancers and choreographers (3414)

Only the following job title within this occupation: skilled ballet dancer (see “Other information”).

For this job to be skilled, dancers must reach the standard required by internationally recognised UK ballet companies (e.g. Birmingham Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, Northern Ballet Theatre, the Royal Ballet and Scottish Ballet).

Ship and hovercraft officers (3513)

All job titles within this occupation (see “Other information”).

The individual must hold a certificate of equivalent competency from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, indicating qualification to a level equivalent to Officer of the Watch certification or above.

Pipe fitters (5216)

Only the following job title within this occupation: high integrity pipe welder (see “Other information”).

The individual must have three or more years’ documented evidence of related on-the-job experience.

Lines repairers and cable jointers (5243)

Only the following job title within this occupation: electricity transmission overhead lines worker.

Chefs, cooks (5434)

Only the following job title within this occupation: skilled chef (see “Other information”).

“Skilled” requires that the individual is earning at least £8.10 per hour after deductions for accommodation, meals, etc. MAC to review evidence by March 2009.

Care assistants and home carers (6115)

Only the following job title within this occupation: skilled senior care worker (see “Other information”).

“Skilled” requires that the individual is earning at least £8.80 per hour after deductions for accommodation, meals, etc. or there is a requirement for senior care workers to be qualified at National Qualifications Framework level 3 or above (currently only the case in Scotland and Wales). MAC to review evidence by March 2009.

Animal care occupations n.e.c. (6139)

Only the following job title within this occupation: skilled work rider (see “Other information”).

There must be documentary evidence that the individual has three or more years’ paid experience in this job, at a level equivalent to NVQ level 3, for this job to be skilled. See Chapter 9 of MAC report for further details of job responsibilities. The individual must also be licensed by the British Horseracing Authority.

Fishing- and agriculture-related occupations n.e.c. (9119)

Only the following job title within this occupation: skilled sheep shearer (see “Other information”).

The individual must hold the British Wool Marketing Board bronze medal (or equivalent) or above and there must be documentary evidence that the individual has worked at this level for three years for the job to be skilled.

Social Workers (2442)

All job titles within this occupation.

MAC to review evidence by March 2009.


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