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The guidance draws attention to a number of areas where the Government expects local authorities to use the strong powers and influence they already have to respond to the issues raised in petitions. Examples include:on anti-social behaviour-asking the courts to grant an anti-social behaviour order (ASBO); applying to the courts for a premises closure order to close properties where there is persistent nuisance or disorder; making a gating order to restrict access to any public highway to prevent crime or ASB; providing intensive, non-negotiable behavioural support through family intervention projects to perpetrators of anti-social behaviour and their families;on alcohol related crime and disorder-placing restrictions on public drinking in the area by establishing a designated public place order or, as a last resort, imposing an alcohol disorder zone. When an alcohol disorder zone is established, the licensed premises in the area where alcohol-related trouble is being caused are required to contribute to the costs of extra policing in that area;on under-performing schools-issuing a warning notice outlining expectations and a timeframe for improvement; for schools that have failed to comply with a warning notice or are in an Ofsted category of notice to improve (requiring significant improvement) or special measures, authorities can also appoint additional governors, establish an interim executive board, remove the school's delegated budgets, require the school to enter into a formal contract or partnership or (only if the school is in special measures) require its closure; and on under-performing hospitals-asking the council's scrutiny committee to investigate concerns on issues like poor hygiene. The committee has powers to review services, request information from NHS bodies, and make urgent recommendations; and work with local involvement networks, which have powers to carry out spot checks and seek information and responses from health service providers.
In order to avoid confusion and duplication with existing statutory arrangements for citizens to express their views, the Local Authorities (Petitions)(England)
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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Policing, Crime and Security (David Hanson) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The police pensions additional voluntary contributions (AVC) scheme, which was introduced in 1990, has served as a useful means by which police officers can top up their retirement pension. However, the opportunities now open to those who want to save for a personal pension reduce the need for an in-house AVC scheme. After consulting the Police Negotiating Board we have decided to close the police AVC scheme to new business from 1 October 2010, subject to parliamentary approval of the necessary changes to the relevant regulations.
Notice of this change has been given to the two providers concerned, Standard Life and Equitable Life. Regular contributions in effect on 30 September can continue to be made but the change will mean that no new or increased contributions will be possible from 1 October. We recommend the need in all cases for officers to satisfy themselves about whether AVC investments are right for them, if necessary by taking independent financial advice.
As part of our review of the current arrangements for topping up police pensions we are discussing with the Police Negotiating Board proposals for introducing a new facility, Added Pension, which will enable officers to buy specific amounts of pension, subject to set limits, on a cost-neutral basis for the Police Pension Scheme. The introduction of Added Pension would be accompanied by the closure to new contracts of the current facility of buying added years. The aim is for this change to be made at the same time as the closure of the AVC Scheme to new business but this is subject to confirmation.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): My right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Jack Straw) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
At the request of Sir Hayden Phillips, and on his behalf, I am today placing in the Library of the House the agendas, papers and minutes for the five meetings which he chaired and which were attended by representatives of the three main parties in 2007 on the funding of political parties. (These items are also being placed on the Ministry of Justice website, at www.justice.gov.uk.) Sir Hayden has asked me to say that, as far as the minutes of the meetings are concerned, only those of the first meeting were agreed by the parties. The other four were drafts from the secretariat to the talks, authorised for circulation and comment to the parties by Sir Hayden. The agendas, papers and minutes are released in their entirety. There is one substantive exception to this: a paper produced following the fourth session of the talks which contained legal advice from Ministry of Justice officials on donation caps. The advice was given in confidence and Sir Hayden judges he should respect that. However Sir Hayden wishes to make it clear that the content of the advice relates to the lawfulness of a proposal to impose a cap on political donations, and the advice given was that a cap was capable of being compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, provided that it was prescribed by law and sought to achieve a legitimate aim in a proportionate way. The CVs of two advisors to the talks have also been removed as they do not relate to the substantive discussions.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): My honourable friend Maria Eagle, the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
I wish to inform the House that from 1 April 2010 there will be established 29 further probation trusts operating in England and Wales. This brings to 35 the total number of probation trusts and means the dissolution of the last remaining local probation boards.
The trusts programme has presented a challenge to the probation service to demonstrate that it can deliver locally tailored services efficiently and effectively. I am pleased that all of the remaining probation areas have successfully met this challenge and I am confident that they will all be successful in realising the benefits they have identified in moving to trust status.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): My right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Jack Straw) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement:
I am announcing today the Government's intention to establish an inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005 to investigate the death of Azelle Rodney in April 2005. The inquiry will be established by the Ministry of Justice.
It is intended that this inquiry will be chaired by a retired judge and that, subject to his or her views, it will determine the matters which an Article 2 compliant inquest would have determined had it been able to take place. These are: how, when and where Mr Rodney died, and the broad circumstances which led to his death.
The inquest into the death has been adjourned by the North London Coroner since August 2007. The coroner and, most importantly, the bereaved relatives of Mr Rodney have been given advance notice of this decision.
During debate on the Coroners and Justice Bill, I said that any inquiry established because an inquest cannot be held would be subject to a protocol between Ministers and the senior judiciary. This protocol is intended to cover the procedure from the point the inquest cannot continue until when the inquiry is established.
I have been working with colleagues across government on the terms of the protocol but it has raised some complex issues and is not yet ready for use. As the inquest into Mr Rodney's death is already adjourned and cannot continue, I have decided that an inquiry should be established to avoid further delay for Mr Rodney's family. A further announcement on the inquiry chair and its terms of reference will be made as soon as possible.
Over Easter Recess, the Cabinet Office will publish Mutual Benefit: Giving People Power over Public Services. The paper sets out the potential for mutuals to stimulate and secure greater citizen participation and engagement in public services.
Following publication, Mutual Benefit: Giving People Power over Public Services can be downloaded at: www.hmg.gov.uk/media/60217/mutuals.pdf
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): My right honourable friend the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Michael Wills) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The Government are today publishing two reports on important aspects of constitutional reform. The first is a summary of responses to the Green Paper, Rights and Responsibilities: developing our constitutional framework. The second is an independent analysis of the programme of deliberation that was carried out
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The reports bring to a conclusion key aspects of the first stage of public debate initiated by The Governance of Britain Green Paper in July 2007. They also meet the commitment in Building Britain's Future to complete a national consultation on a Bill of Rights and Responsibilities during 2009-10.
The responses to the Green Paper, combined with the programme of deliberative research, reflect the views of around 2,500 people. They demonstrate an appetite for further debate about a Bill of Rights and Responsibilities as well as a broader range of constitutional issues, such as a statement of values, and for making progress on them.
The programme placed public deliberation at the heart of decision-making. The research was carried out independently, ensuring that the public were given the opportunity to debate issues in a balanced way, exposing them to views from across the political spectrum to inform their deliberations and providing a space to enable views to influence policy. As the independent analysis says:"The study can be viewed as a constitutional experiment in deliberative democracy-with the deliberative method helping to inform representative systems of government and promote democratic legitimacy. This approach was not intended to replace representative democracy but to complement it-enabling participants to come to an informed view on policy; which in turn, and alongside other evidence, will inform the views of decision makers in Government".
The independent report shows that suchdeliberative approaches were valued by what were demographically representative groups of participants as a means of building public views into policy making. It shows there is a clear appetite to take further these aspects of the debate on constitutional reform: stating the values that bind us together as a nation; building on the existing protections for individual rights; and clarifying our responsibilities.
In taking forward work on a new Bill of Rights and Responsibilities, the Government remain committed to the Human Rights Act and the protections and remedies provided by it. It is encouraging to see the responses to the Green Paper support the Government's view on this point. The Government are proud of the Human Rights Act and will not resile from it.
Copies of Rights and Responsibilities: developing our constitutional framework-Summary of responses have been laid before Parliament. Copies of People and power: shaping democracy, rights and responsibilities have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Yvette Cooper) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement:
The UK is rightly regarded as having one of the best health and safety records in the world. Since 1997-98 the rate of fatal injuries to workers has fallen by 40 per cent, including in the construction sector, reflecting the significant focus on improving safety by the Health and Safety Executive, local authorities, businesses and trades unions. While this is very welcome, every death is one too many and a tragedy to those involved and their families. The Government believe that more must be done.
The number of deaths in the construction industry has been a particular cause of concern, with the rate of fatal accidents four times that of other industries. While there have been important improvements, 53 construction workers were still killed in 2008-09, for example. We therefore asked Rita Donaghy to carry out a review into the causes of construction fatalities.
On 8 July 2009 I announced the publication of Rita Donaghy's report. The report contained 28 far-reaching recommendations for improving safety in the construction industry, extending across safety representatives, building control, the legal system, training and competence, and public procurement. I should again like to thank Rita Donaghy and her team for their excellent work in undertaking the inquiry.
We are now publishing our response, which builds on the issues and analysis within Rita Donaghy's report to provide a framework for delivery of improvements in these areas. Our response reflects widespread consultation across government and with stakeholders. The Government fully accept 23 of the 28 recommendations including support of common minimum standards throughout publicly funded construction projects; mutual recognition between pre-qualification schemes; and support for greater worker participation. Two further recommendations related to the extension of gangmaster licensing regulations and the introduction of positive duties on directors raise important issues and warrant further consideration. Additional work is required fully to explore the relative options and understand the potential impact of introducing such measures. The reasons for these decisions are detailed within the response.
I hope that the action set out in the response further improves the safety record in the construction sector and provides some comfort to the families of those who have been killed by construction-related accidents.
The Government's response (Cm 7828) has been laid before Parliament and will be published later today. Copies of the response will be available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. It is also available on the DWP website at www.dwp.gov.uk/publications/policy-publications/fatal-accidents-inquiry.shtml
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Davies of Oldham): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State (Hilary Benn) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
To demonstrate improved capacity and capability to meet targets and implement change with particular focus on leadership, (core to RPA) data quality, financial performance and contributions in response to the Defra Review and the Public Accounts Committee.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Baroness Morgan of Drefelin): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Ed Balls) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement:
On 18 January I asked Sir Roger Singleton, the Government's independent Chief Adviser on the Safety of Children, to review the use of the defence of reasonable punishment in certain part-time educational and learning settings to establish the key issues and whether it was an area where we needed to consider a change in the interests of strengthening safeguards for children.
Sir Roger has now provided a report, Physical Punishment: Improving Consistency and Protection, containing his advice and recommendations, for which I am very grateful. I appreciate the extensive work he has undertaken with a wide range of stakeholders and the careful consideration he has given to this complex and sensitive issue.
Sir Roger's main recommendation is that the current ban on physical punishment in schools and other children's settings should be extended to include any form of advice, guidance, teaching, training, instruction, worship, treatment or therapy and to any form of care or supervision which is carried out other than by a parent or member of the child's own family or household. This will resolve the discrepancy whereby a teacher is banned from smacking a child in a school, but the same teacher could administer physical punishment in an out-of-school setting. I believe this is a sensible and proportionate solution to removing this inconsistency.
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