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Today's Written Statements Update

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Written statements are published on the internet as soon as possible after Parliament receives them and are also published in the next day’s edition of Hansard.

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Matthew Hancock - Cabinet Office

The Cabinet Office has received a repayable cash advance from the Contingencies Fund of 37,199,000.

The requirement for this has arisen because the Cabinet Office cash receives a relatively high proportion of its voted resource programme funding at Supplementary Estimate, and so can only draw the related cash from the Consolidated Fund after the Supply and Appropriation Act has received Royal Assent in March 2016.

HM Treasurys Supply Estimates Guidance provides for a repayable cash advance from the Contingencies Fund in order to meet an urgent cash requirement for existing services when cash provision from the Main Estimate has been exhausted.

The cash advance will pay for programmes which will generate government-wide benefits or savings and are urgent in the public interest.

The following programmes are funded from the reserve:

  • various technology and property programmes announced in the 2015 Summer Budget which will generate savings across Government (46,000,000);
  • Individual Electoral Registration (9,750,000); and
  • various Office for Civil Society programmes (690,000).

The following programmes are funded from budgetary cover transfers from other government departments:

  • various national security programmes (17,465,000);
  • a cross-Government secure IT programme (15,931,000);
  • an identity assurance programme (19,657,000);
  • cross-Government Shared Services (3,836,000);
  • common technology services (3,500,000);
  • cross-Government Gulf Strategy commitments (1,491,000);
  • various Office for Civil Society programmes (1,300,000);
  • Financial Management Review Target Operating Model (300,000); and
  • diversity and inclusion (279,000).

The requirement for an advance is reduced by cash proceeds from the sale of Admiralty Arch (65,000,000), and budgetary cover transfers to other departments for the GREAT campaign (18,000,000).

Parliamentary approval for additional resources of 37,199,000 will be sought in a Supplementary Estimate for the Cabinet Office. Pending that approval, expenditure estimated at 37,199,000 will be met by repayable cash advances from the Contingencies Fund.


Greg Clark - Department for Communities and Local Government

On the 26 February 2015, my predecessor the then Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Eric Pickles) and the Secretary of State for Education (Nicky Morgan) confirmed that, having considered the report of the inspection by Louise Casey CB and advice note from Sir Michael Wilshaw (HM Chief Inspector of Education, Childrens Services and Skills), Rotherham Metropolitan Borough was failing to comply with its best value duty. They therefore concluded that it was both necessary and expedient for them to exercise their intervention powers. Moreover, given the complete failure of political and officer leadership in the council at this time, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government decided that the intervention should be broad and wide ranging with commissioners exercising many of the authoritys functions until these could be confidently rolled back for the authority to exercise in compliance with its best value duty. A team of Commissioners were appointed to exercise all executive functions of the authority, as well as some non-executive ones (e.g. licensing). They also had to oversee a rigorous programme of improvement to bring about essential changes in culture and ensure there is in future effective and accountable political and officer leadership.

Nearly a year on, a number of challenges remain but there have been significant areas of progress. Following consideration of submissions from the Lead Commissioner in support of his proposal, including the views of lay and expert panels and the results of a public consultation. Today I am therefore proposing, on the recommendation of the Commissioner team, my intention to return certain functions to Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council.

After careful consideration of the proposal and this further information provided by the Lead Commissioner, I am satisfied that the Council is now able to exercise the functions identified by the Lead Commissioner in compliance with the best value duty, and that the people of Rotherham can have confidence that this will be the case. I am therefore considering exercising my powers under section 15 of the Local Government Act 1999 to return certain service areas, including all associated executive and non-executive functions, to the Council to exercise. Returning these functions is of the start of building the effective and accountable political leadership and represents a clear milestone on the road to recovery.

The functions to be returned are:

  • Education and schools; education for 14-19 years in all settings; school admissions and appeal system; youth services.
  • Public Health.
  • Leisure services; events in parks and green spaces.
  • Customer and cultural services, libraries, arts, customer services and welfare programmes.
  • Housing.
  • Planning and transportation policy; highways maintenance.
  • The Councils area assembly system and neighbourhood working; responsibilities under the Equalities Act.
  • Building regulation, drainage, car parking; environmental health; business regulation and enforcement (not including taxi licensing); emergency planning.
  • ICT; legal and democratic services; corporate communications; corporate policy; procurement; financial services, including benefits and revenues, but not including audit.
  • Budget control in these areas and budget planning.
  • Policy arising from Sheffield City Region.

The returned functions do not include licensing; childrens services; adult social care; audit; and other functions which still remain high risk.

I am confident that this is the right time and these are the right functions to return to the Council. The Commissioners will provide oversight of the returned functions to ensure that they are exercised in accordance with the best value duty. In addition they will continue to implement the rigorous programme of improvement they have started to bring about the essential changes in culture and ensure there is in future effective and accountable political and office leadership across the Council.

I am placing a copy of the documents associated with these announcements in the Library of the House and on my Departments website.


Mr Sam Gyimah - Department for Education

During second reading of the Childcare Bill my right honourable friend - the Secretary of State for Education - announced that our extended childcare entitlement will be delivered via a joint online application being developed by Her Majestys Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

As I outlined during Committee Stage of the Childcare Bill, the Department for Education will be providing HMRC with funding for the development of the joint online application and eligibility checking system.

I can confirm today that for 2015-16, urgent expenditure estimated at 1million will be met by repayable cash advances from the Contingencies Fund.

The development of the joint online application will mean that parents and children who will be eligible to benefit from both the extended entitlement and Tax-Free Childcare will be able to apply for both schemes through one simple and straightforward system, saving them valuable time.


Nick Gibb - Department for Education

The government is reforming GCSEs and A levels to be more knowledge-based and to make sure that they give students the best possible preparation for further and higher education, and for employment.

Schools are now teaching some of the new reformed GCSEs and A levels, and we have already published reformed subject content for those GCSEs and A levels to be taught from September 2016 as well as for some of the GCSE and A levels to be taught from September 2017. Content for reformed GCSE subjects can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/gcse-subject-content and content for AS and A level subjects at https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/gce-as-and-a-level-subject-content.

Today I am publishing revised subject content for history of art AS and A levels that will be taught in schools from September 2017.

Students will study a wide range of art and artists from different movements and periods including pre- and post-1850, ensuring good breadth and depth of study. The content also includes the development of art over time, and the connections and interrelationship between different artists, periods and movements.


Mrs Theresa Villiers - Northern Ireland Office

The cross-party talks that ran from 8 September to 17 November last year, which culminated in the Fresh Start agreement, brought us closer than ever before to consensus on the best way to deal with Northern Irelands past. While we established much common ground, it was not possible to reach agreement on all issues. I am committed to working with the Northern Ireland parties, with the Irish Government as appropriate, and with representatives of victims and survivors, to build on the progress made during the talks. The UK Government is determined to resolve the outstanding issues that are preventing the establishment of the legacy institutions set out in the Stormont House Agreement.

One of these institutions is the Independent Commission on Information Retrieval (ICIR). This will be an independent body designed to enable victims and survivors privately to receive information about the Troubles-related deaths of their next of kin. As set out in the Stormont House Agreement, and building on the precedent of the Independent Commission on the Location of Victims Remains, the ICIR will be an international body. To that end, the UK and Irish Governments have signed an international agreement to enable the establishment of the ICIR and to set out its functions. Today I have placed a copy of this treaty in the libraries of both Houses.

The ICIR will be an important institution which will help victims and survivors to seek information which it has not been possible to obtain by other means. Engagement by families with the ICIR will be entirely voluntary. Information provided to the ICIR about deaths within its remit will not be admissible in court, something which families will always be told in advance. The ICIR will not, however, provide any form of amnesty or immunity from prosecution. This Government believes in the rule of law and would not countenance such a step. As the Stormont House Agreement set out, information provided to the ICIR will be protected but no individual will be protected from prosecution if evidence is obtained by other means. It is the Governments intention that the legislation needed to implement the ICIR will contain provisions clearly setting this out.

It had been our aim to lay the treaty before Parliament at the same time as introducing the legislation required to establish the legacy bodies. However, as agreement has not yet been reached on this legislation, this is not possible. Once any treaty is formally laid, Parliament has a period of 21 sitting days, in which it can resolve that the treaty should not be ratified, in accordance with the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010. I believe that it would be best if this consideration took place alongside the legislation, which will contain more detail about how the ICIR will function. I propose therefore formally to lay the treaty once we are able also to introduce legislation. These particular circumstances mean that placing a copy of the treaty in the libraries of both Houses is an appropriate way to ensure that Parliament is aware of the text of the treaty, without instigating the formal process of consideration.

In addition to the ICIR, the Stormont House Agreement envisaged the establishment of the Historical Investigations Unit, the Oral History Archive and the Implementation and Reconciliation Group. Together, this set of institutions provides the best opportunity to help Northern Ireland deal with its past and provide better outcomes for victims and survivors, the people who we must never forget suffered more than anyone else as a result of the Troubles. The Government is committed to implementing the Stormont House Agreement and to establishing the legacy bodies it contains. I will continue to meet victims representatives and others over the coming days and weeks to discuss these matters and to build support for the new institutions.

 


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