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Written Statements

Tuesday 6 November 2012

Buses: Green Bus Fund

Statement

Earl Attlee: My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Norman Baker) has made the following ministerial Statement.

I am pleased to announce today that the department is making a further £20 million available to help bus operators and local authorities in England buy low carbon emission buses through a fourth round of the Green Bus Fund.

Operators and authorities will be able to bid for a share of this funding to meet the additional upfront cost of purchasing these buses, and we calculate that this will allow for around 300 new low carbon buses to be bought. This investment will aid the department’s overarching objectives of helping to create growth and cut carbon, as well as help to support UK manufacturers.

A guidance document will be published later this month giving more details of how bus operators and local authorities can bid for a share of this fund. Copies of this will be placed at the same time in the Libraries of the House.

A toolkit has also been published today advising bus operators and local authorities on how quickly they can expect a return from investing in low carbon emission buses.

Education: Data

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State, Department for Education (Michael Gove) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am today launching a public consultation on proposals to amend the Education (Individual Pupil Information) (Prescribed Persons) (England) Regulations 2009 to enable the Department for Education to share extracts of data held in the National Pupil Database for a wider range of purposes than currently possible in order to maximise the value of this rich dataset.

The National Pupil Database holds one of the richest educational datasets in the world and forms a significant part of the education evidence base. It is a longitudinal database which holds information on children in schools in England. This includes pupil level data relating to school attended, teacher assessments, test and exam results by subject, prior attainment, progression and pupil characteristics.

We have already significantly expanded the content of school performance tables for primary and secondary schools and were commended in the National Audit Office report Implementing Transparency (April 2012) for opening up access to our data. Recently, we have also improved the application arrangements for requesting

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access to data from the National Pupil Database under our existing regulations for those who need pupil level data for research purposes.

However, we are aware that the existing prescribed persons regulations may prevent some potentially beneficial uses of the data by third-party organisations, as use is currently restricted to research into educational achievement. For example we have had to reject requests to use the data for analysis on sexual exploitation, the impact on the environment of school transport, and demographic modelling, all of which seem to be legitimate and fruitful areas for further research.

We want to give organisations greater freedom to use extracts of the data for wider purposes, while still ensuring their confidentiality and security. Existing arrangements for access to the data would apply to all future requests: all requests to access extracts of data would go through a robust approval process and successful organisations would be subject to strict terms and conditions covering their handling and use of the data, including having appropriate security arrangements in place. Organisations granted access would need to comply with the Data Protection Act, and any reports, statistical tables, or other products published or released, would need to fully protect the identity of individuals.

Amending these regulations should encourage more organisations to use the data for wider research, such as socioeconomic analysis, or research into equality issues, including disability, gender or race. It could also help stimulate the market for innovative tools and services which present anonymised versions of the data.

If, having listened to the views expressed in the public consultation and subject to the will of the House, I decide to proceed with the proposed amendments, I expect the revised regulations to come into force in spring 2013.

The public consultation on this proposal will commence today and run for six weeks. A consultation document containing full details of this proposal and how interested parties can respond to the consultation will be published on the Department for Education website. Copies of that document will also be placed in the House Libraries.

Intelligence and Security Committee: Annual Report

Statement

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Strathclyde): My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has made the following Statement.

The annual report of the Intelligence and Security Committee was laid before Parliament on 12 July 2012 (Cm. 8403). The Government have considered the committee’s many useful conclusions and recommendations. I have today laid the Government's response before the House (Cm. 8455).

Copies of the response have been placed in the Libraries of the House.

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NHS: Constitution

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): My honourable friend the Minister of State, Department of Health (Norman Lamb) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I have launched a public consultation on proposals to strengthen the NHS constitution. These changes include:

strengthening patient involvement and shared decision-making;making clear the importance of patient and staff feedback;setting out a new duty of candour;emphasising the importance of integrated care;clarifying patients’ rights for making complaints;making clear how patient data are protected and used;emphasising the importance of valued, empowered and supported staff to the delivery of high-quality patient care; andstrengthening commitments to dignity, respect and compassion.

In addition, the Department of Health proposes some minor technical changes to the NHS constitution that are necessary to ensure it reflects legislative changes introduced since its launch in January 2009. This includes making clear that the constitution extends to local authorities in the exercise of their public health functions as set out in the Health and Social Care Act 2012.

The changes proposed in the consultation respond to the recent recommendations of the NHS Future Forum working group on the NHS constitution, which was tasked in March 2012 with advising the Secretary of State for Health on whether there was scope for strengthening and reinforcing the constitution. The Government accept the forum’s recommendations in full.

Following the forum’s conclusion that awareness of the NHS constitution remains too low and should be increased, the consultation document sets out the department’s commitment to work collaboratively with the NHS Commissioning Board, clinical commissioning groups, and Health Education England to promote and raise awareness of the constitution.

The consultation seeks views on how the NHS constitution can be given greater traction, so that patients, staff and the public know what to do if their expectations are not met. The department will establish an expert group, which I will chair, to develop proposals to do this. We will consult on these separately in the spring following the report of the public inquiry into the events at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.

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The consultation will run until 28 January 2013. The Government intend to publish the revised NHS constitution, together with updated supporting documents —the handbook to the constitution and statement of NHS accountability—by 1 April 2013.

A consultation on strengthening the NHS constitution has been placed in the Library. Copies are available to honourable Members from the Vote Office and to noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office.

Pensions: National Employment Savings Trust (NEST)

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): My honourable friend the Minister for Pensions (Steve Webb) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Later today I will be publishing a call for evidence: Supporting Automatic Enrolment: A Call for Evidence on the Impact of the Annual Contribution Limit and the Restrictions on Transfers on the National Employment Savings Trust.

The National Employment Savings Trust (NEST) was established to underpin automatic enrolment and has a key role to play in making the workplace pension reforms a success. We estimate that between 2 and 4 million people will be enrolled into NEST by the end of implementation.

This call for evidence explores the questions raised by the Work and Pensions Select Committee about the impact that two of the constraints on NEST—the annual contribution limit and the restrictions on transfers—are having on employer choice and whether they work as the policy intended.

It is critical to the success of automatic enrolment that employer choice leads to individuals getting a good deal when saving for their retirement, provision that is suitable for their savings needs, with charges that offer good value for money. We do not want the achievement of automatic enrolment to be undermined by employers—particularly smaller employers—perceiving the annual contribution limit and the transfer restrictions on NEST as complex and costly to administer, potentially leading to adverse outcomes for individuals. However, evidence currently available to the Department for Work and Pensions is not conclusive that these two constraints are acting as an unintended barrier to employers choosing to use NEST.

This call for evidence seeks views and evidence on whether the annual contribution limit and the transfer restrictions imposed on NEST continue to work as intended or whether the Government should consider alternative approaches, especially as smaller employers start to engage with the reforms.

The document will be available later today on the department’s website at: www.dwp.gov.uk/consultations/ 2012/.

I will also place a copy in the House Libraries.