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Written Ministerial Statements

Friday 19 June 2009

Children, Schools and Families

Partnerships for Schools

The Minister of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Mr. Vernon Coaker): Building Schools for the Future is helping transform secondary school infrastructure in England, providing world-class teaching and learning environments for pupils, teachers and communities. Since the programme was established, more than £3 billion of funding has been committed to rebuilding and renewing the estate, with over 75 schools now benefiting from this investment. Around a third of all secondary schools are now involved in the programme.

In 2004, the Department created Partnerships for Schools to manage the programme centrally and support local authorities in local implementation. The funding and management of Partnerships for Schools has been carried out under a joint venture between the Department and Partnerships UK. Partnerships UK was set up to help the Government deliver improvements in public services particularly where major infrastructure renewal programmes are involved.

Through the joint venture, Partnerships UK has made a significant contribution to the successful delivery of Building Schools for the Future by providing strategic, commercial, programme and project management expertise, and in the early years secondment of key staff. Since 2006 Partnerships UK has also been supporting Partnerships for Schools in the construction of new academies. As the National Audit Office pointed out in its recent report on “Building Schools for the Future” (published on 12 February 2009), “the effect [of the joint venture arrangement] has been to engender top level attention to BSF in PUK, and greater in-depth support and commitment”, and this has been crucial in establishing the programme.

Following the success in setting up these programmes, and recognising Partnerships for Schools’ increasing maturity as an organisation and the plans to enlarge their remit later this year, the Department and Partnerships UK have reviewed the governance arrangements for Partnerships for Schools and have agreed that it is no longer necessary for Partnerships UK to engage as intensively as through the joint venture, which was focused on Building Schools for the Future. It has therefore been agreed to bring the joint venture to an end.

Going forward, Partnerships UK will maintain an active involvement in the delivery of Building Schools for the Future and other capital programmes by continuing to provide support through an existing alternative contractual basis rather than through the joint venture. As part of the new arrangements, the chief executive of Partnerships UK will be an ex officio board member and director of Partnerships for Schools, and the finance director of Partnerships UK an ex officio observer to the board.

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As a result of the termination of the joint venture the Department is paying Partnerships UK an amount of £22.4 million. This sum repays Partnerships UK for its share of the funding of the joint venture plus a return on that investment. The return remunerates Partnerships UK for interest on its investment, the risks associated, and the support and commitment to the programmes provided to date.


Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Gillian Merron): The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council met on 8 and 9 June in Luxembourg. The Health and Consumer Affairs part of the Council was taken on 9 June. Andy Lebrecht, Deputy Permanent Representative at UKRep represented the UK.

At the meeting, the Council adopted recommendations on the Czech presidency theme of patient safety, including the prevention and control of healthcare associated infections and on action in the field of rare diseases. The United Kingdom supported the adoption of these conclusions.

The presidency provided a progress report on the proposal for a directive on cross-border healthcare, which was followed by a debate between member states where it was clear that there remain concerns among member states on treatments to be included under the directive. The UK intervened to thank the Czech presidency for their work taking this dossier forward, and welcomed the Council’s firm support for certain fundamental principles—in particular that of ensuring that member states retain the ability to determine healthcare entitlements. The UK noted that there remained some technical issues to be resolved in chapters 1 to 3, and that we still had serious concerns about the extent and appropriateness of some provisions of chapter four (on co-operation between healthcare systems).

Over lunch, there was a discussion from the Commission on H1N1(A) influenza, following a paper the Commission had provided to member states in advance.

The afternoon discussion focused on the “pharmaceutical package”. The majority of member states who intervened welcomed the proposals on counterfeit medicines and pharmacovigilance, as did the UK. Most of member states, however, were not supportive of the third element of the package: the proposals on “information to patients”. The UK noted that the divergent views across Europe meant that discussion of a harmonised legal framework was difficult. However, the UK encouraged member states to find a way to keep the issues under discussion. Under any other business, the presidency and Commission provided information on a range of issues including a summary of the lunchtime discussion on swine flu, a directive on standards of quality and safety of human organs intended for transplantation, the outcome of a Council working party on public health at senior level and information on ingredients in tobacco products. The incoming Swedish presidency provided information on their priorities for health, which they intend to take forward under their presidency.

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Prime Minister

Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and Western European Union (UK Delegation)

The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): The Earl of Dundee DL has been appointed as a substitute member of the United Kingdom delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the Assembly of Western European Union in place of Baroness O’Cathain OBE.

Security and Intelligence Services

The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): I have recently appointed Desmond Bowen CMG as Staff Counsellor for the security and intelligence services, with effect from 6 April 2009. He was a civil servant from 1973 until he retired, as Policy Director at the Ministry of Defence, in October 2008.

John Warne CB has served as Staff Counsellor since February 2004. His appointment was due to end in February 2009, although he kindly agreed to extend his term to 5 April. I would like to thank him for his work during his time in office and in particular for the valuable support he has provided to staff working in the security and intelligence services.


Rail Accidents (Grayrigg and Potters Bar)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Chris Mole): My noble Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, Lord Adonis, has made the following ministerial statement:

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