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The Minister for International Defence and Security (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence (Bob Ainsworth) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The then Secretary of State for Defence, the right honourable Des Browne, informed the House on 10 June 2008 of plans to introduce a new national form of recognition for the families of those Armed Forces personnel who die on operations or as a result of terrorist activity while on duty. These plans were based on the recommendations of the military chiefs of staff. The Secretary of State said that the recognition would be in the form of an emblem for wear and a memorial scroll similar in concept to those that were issued to the families of those who died in the two world wars and in Korea in the early 1950s.
Much detailed work has been undertaken since that announcement. We had hoped to provide more details before now but there were sensitive and complex issues involved which required much time to work through.
I am pleased to be able to announce further details of this recognition to the House today. These details, recommended by the chiefs of staff, have been welcomed by MoD Ministers, endorsed by the cross-government Committee on Honours and Awards and approved by Her Majesty the Queen. In particular, I am delighted to inform the House that Her Majesty has asked that the emblem should be known as the Elizabeth Cross.
The Elizabeth Cross is made of hallmarked silver and is in the form of a cross with laurel wreath passing between the arms. The arms of the cross bear floral symbols representing England (rose), Scotland (thistle), Ireland (shamrock) and Wales (daffodil). The centre of the cross bears the crowned cypher of Her Majesty the Queen. The reverse of the cross will be engraved with the name of the serviceperson in whose memory it is granted. A miniature version of the Elizabeth Cross will also be granted. Both will be presented in a black leather-style presentation box with the royal cypher on the lid and the royal coat of arms on the inner silk lining.
The memorial scroll is on parchment-style paper, headed with the royal coat of arms and the following words: "This Scroll Commemorates ... who gave his/her life for Queen and Country on ...". The scroll will bear the signature of Her Majesty the Queen in the upper left-hand corner.
The Elizabeth Cross and scroll will be granted in national recognition of their loss and sacrifice to the next of kin of UK Armed Forces personnel who have died on operations or as a result of an act of terrorism. Eligible personnel to be remembered in this way are those who were serving with, or former members of, the Regular and Reserve Armed Forces or the Royal Fleet Auxiliary when deployed in direct support of a
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In addition to recognising future operational deaths in this way, deaths in the circumstances outlined above that occurred after 1 January 1948, or as a result of service in Palestine since 27 September 1945, will be recognised retrospectively. These dates reflect the fact that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission attributed deaths up to 1 January 1948 to World War II service (with the exception of Palestine).
As with all forms of recognition, there will be those who fall outside the qualifying criteria. There is a risk involved in much of what the Armed Forces do routinely. Some members of the Armed Forces sadly die, for example, in training incidents or in road accidents in the United Kingdom. While any death is a tragic loss to the family concerned and to the Armed Forces, the chiefs of staff recommended this new recognition for the special circumstances of operational duty. In addition, they considered that the terrible circumstances where
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The first Elizabeth Crosses and memorial scrolls will be granted from one month today, on 1 August 2009. From today, families of those who died in qualifying circumstances are invited to apply for the Elizabeth Cross and scroll to the MoD Medal Office, which will administer the scheme. It is simply not possible to contact the families of all those who may be eligible going back over 50 years, as address details held for next of kin are likely to be out of date.
Full details of how to apply, including an application form, can be found via the MoD website at www.mod.uk/defenceinternet/defencefor/veterans/medals/, while those without access to the internet may call 0800 085 3600 and ask for details to be sent to them.
For new qualifying deaths after 1 August 2009, it is intended that, in most cases, the next of kin will be offered the opportunity for the Elizabeth Cross and memorial scroll to be presented privately and in an appropriate way at the time of the funeral if they so wish.
For retrospective cases, next of kin who are resident in the UK will be offered the opportunity to receive the Elizabeth Cross and memorial scroll at a formal presentation ceremony in the region where they live. Such presentations may be made by a lord-lieutenant or a senior military representative. It is likely to be some months before these events are arranged, as locations will very much depend on the number of recipients living in a particular region and we cannot establish this until applications are received.
We owe a great debt of gratitude to the men and women who serve in our Armed Forces and who have done so in the past. That debt extends to the families who support them and who bear the burden while loved ones are deployed away from home. I am delighted that the families of those who sadly die in the circumstances that I have described are now to receive some tangible evidence of the nation's gratitude in the form of the Elizabeth Cross and memorial scroll.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Lord Young of Norwood Green): My right honourable friend the Minister for Higher Education and Intellectual Property (David Lammy) has made the following Statement.
There are 300,000 more students in higher education than there were in 1997. We have achieved this owing to continued government investment, which is over 25 per cent higher in real terms than in 1997.
We are committed to maintaining this increased investment and funding for student support will be increased in 2009-10 by 4 per cent compared with 2008-09. In cash terms, we are planning to spend over £5 billion on student support this year and even more next year.
In 2006, we introduced a radical new package of student support aimed at supporting those who need it most. We predicted that around a third of students would get a full non-repayable grant; in fact, about 40 per cent may receive a full grant, beyond our expectations.
In addition, new and continuing full-time students will be able to access a fee loan of up to £3,290 a year, which has been increased by 2.04 per cent in 2010-11 to reflect the uprating of the maximum tuition fee level.
For full-time "old system" students (mainly those who started their courses before 2006) the same principles apply: their fee contribution loans and fee grants will be uprated by 2.04 per cent and their maintenance support will be the same as in 2009-10.
We have also decided to align the financial support for new entrants to postgraduate and equivalent initial teacher training courses with what is available for the generality of undergraduates. Bursaries and other payments for students undertaking initial teacher training will remain available.
In over 500 constituencies, numbers of young undergraduate entrants to higher education have increased since 1997. Also, the 20 most deprived constituencies all show higher than average growth over that period. Some of the poorest areas have seen the biggest percentage increases in young higher education entrants. Education
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To help to maintain this increase in participation overall we will continue to encourage those in receipt of the EMA to think about progression into higher education. In these difficult economic times, it is both fair and reasonable to expect that those students who see an improvement in their financial circumstances are assessed for student support according to their need. We have therefore revised our plans for a guarantee of student support and will offer students in receipt of EMA a clear quote of the student support that they will receive if their circumstances are unchanged at the time they apply for higher education.
The student support regulations will be laid before Parliament today and, following approval by Parliament, will need some weeks to implement. I have asked the Student Loans Company to begin processing new applications for student support as early as possible during the autumn term and for returning students in the new year.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Bridget Prentice) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The response paper indicates that changes will be made to the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 to extend the categories of people eligible to claim damages for bereavement to include children under 18 for the death of a parent; cohabitants of at least two years' duration for the death of a partner; and unmarried fathers with parental responsibility for the death of a child under 18.
Copies of the Government's response will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses and can be obtained on the Ministry's website at http://www.justice.gov.uk/consultations/cp0907.htm.
I am pleased to inform the House that the proposed National Assembly for Wales (Legislative Competence) (Culture and other fields) Order 2009 has been laid today as Command Paper 7668. Copies of this can be found in the Printed Paper Office and will be placed in the Library from noon. I have written to the House of Lords Constitution Committee and to the House of Commons Welsh Affairs Select Committee to request that they undertake pre-legislative scrutiny.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon): In 2007, following an experiment in 2006, the House agreed to permanent arrangements for tabling Questions for Written Answer (QWAs) and making Written Ministerial Statements during the Summer Recess. Under these arrangements there are two opportunities during the Recess, on dates to be announced by the Leader of the House, for the tabling of QWAs. Answers are made available online once a week and an edition of Hansard is published on the day after the second tabling day, in which Answers received by that time are published, together with Written Ministerial Statements.
The Secretary of State for Transport (Lord Adonis): This morning, National Express Group announced that it will not provide the further financial support necessary to ensure that its subsidiary, National Express East Coast, remains solvent. As a consequence, National Express East Coast is no longer able to continue its franchise agreement to its full term.
The Government's first and overriding obligation in this situation is to ensure continuity of service to passengers, with no disruption or diminution of service standards. When the Government have had to step in to protect rail services in the past, there has been no such impact on passengers.
I have therefore established a publicly owned company, which will take over this franchise from the point at which National Express East Coast ceases to operate. We will agree an orderly handover with National Express. Until that date, National Express will operate services on the current basis; after that date, the new public company will do so. There will be no interruption of services. Existing operational staff-who continue to provide a good service-will transfer to the new east coast main line company, as will the assets necessary for the continuation of the service. I can assure the travelling public that services will continue without disruption and all tickets will be honoured.
National Express also operates rail services on the East Anglia main line and associated commuter routes. The company has said that it does not intend to default on its obligations in respect of these franchises. Notwithstanding this, the Government believe that they may have grounds to terminate these franchises and we are exploring all options in the light of the group's statement this morning. In the mean time, we expect National Express to meet its obligations on these franchises in full.
A company that had defaulted in the way National Express now intends would not have pre-qualified for any previous franchises let by the department. I note that the parent groups of previous franchise failures are no longer in the UK rail business. It is simply unacceptable to reap the benefits of contracts when times are good, only to walk away from them when times become more challenging.
It is the Government's intention to tender for a new east coast franchise operator from the end of 2010. The specification of the new franchise will reflect my concern to secure better passenger services and facilities. I intend to consult fully on the new franchise specification, including with passenger groups, parliamentarians and the Scottish Executive.
The rail franchising system was examined by the National Audit Office last year. It was found to deliver good value for money and steadily improving services. Passenger numbers are at their highest levels since the 1940s, punctuality is over 90 per cent and overall passenger satisfaction is steadily rising. The revenue from rail franchises is enabling us to make record investments in upgrading the network and services on it.
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