Skip to main content

Written Statements

Volume 448: debated on Monday 3 July 2006

Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 3 July 2006

Treasury

UN Licensing System

Robust counter-terrorist finance measures help to save lives and hold terrorists to account for their actions, and the Government constantly review the operation of their financial sanctions against terrorist suspects.

In accordance with UN Security Council Resolutions, countries are required to freeze the assets of individuals who are involved with terrorism and stop them receiving payments. For example UNSCR 1390 (2002) calls upon states to “Freeze without delay the funds and other financial assets or economic resources of these (listed) individuals, groups, undertakings and entities, including funds derived from property owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by them or by persons acting on their behalf or at their direction, and ensure that neither these nor any other funds, financial assets or economic resources are made available, directly or indirectly, for such persons’ benefit.” This is implemented in the UK through EC Regulation 881(2002) and the Al-Qaeda and Taliban (United Nations Measures) Order 2002.

To ensure that these sanctions do not contravene basic human rights, UN Security Council Resolution 1452 states that payments that are “necessary for basic expenses including payments for foodstuffs, rent or mortgage, medicines and medical treatment, taxes, insurance premiums and public utility charges” should be paid under a licence approved by a competent authority. Licences are considered and approved by HM Treasury under the relevant EC Regulation and Order.

In the UK, it is a requirement that when an individual is listed for involvement in terrorism, including an association with Al-Qaeda, state benefits paid direct to them are immediately suspended. Payments are approved under licence by the Treasury generally only where benefits are necessary to meet basic needs.

The Government have decided that, given the fact that household income is generally pooled, state benefits paid to individuals sharing the same household with a listed person would be, directly or indirectly, for the listed person’s benefit and should therefore be subject to appropriate restrictions and conditions.

The following procedures will apply to all state benefits paid to a household which includes a listed person, or to which a listed person is attached:

State benefit payments will be suspended pending the granting of a licence by the Treasury.

Licences will be issued by the treasury in accordance with our legal obligations. Where licensed payments are approved, the Treasury will apply appropriate detailed safeguards to ensure that surplus funds are not made available to the listed person. This will be assessed on a case-by-case basis on the basis of risk.

This procedure is currently being applied in respect of the households of five listed individuals. In each of these cases, the Government have suspended payments of child benefit and in two of these cases also tax credits pending the granting of licences. In four cases, because of the absence of other income, the Government are paying interim support to the households concerned. Once licences are obtained, these interim payments will stop and payments will restart under the appropriate licence conditions.

In four of these cases, applications for the approval of licences are being considered by the United Nations Sanctions Committee. Subject to UN approval, the Treasury will issue licences for the payment of relevant benefits and tax credits to the households concerned. In the fifth case, an application has been submitted to the UN today.

Strict licence conditions will apply to payments in each of these cases. As part of these conditions and on the basis of a risk assessment, in three of these cases, the Treasury will require the appointment of a third party, who will control the onward disbursement and use of benefit funds to protect against the risk that these funds are diverted to terrorism and ensure that all licensing conditions are enforced and monitored.

It is the Government's intention that following UN approval, licences will be granted as soon as possible subject to the appropriate licence conditions to guard against funds being diverted.

Communities and Local Government

Waste and Minerals (Regional Planning Guidance)

My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State, has published the revised chapters 10 and 11 in relation to the above topics. This follows the examination in public into the draft chapters in October 2004, the panel report in December 2004, and the consultation on the First Secretary of State’s proposed changes that closed on 11 November 2005.

These chapters form an integral part of regional planning guidance (RPG) for the south-east and represent a revision to RPG9, as published in March 2001. Following commencement of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act (September 2004) this will now form part of the statutory regional spatial strategy (RSS).

Chapter 10 takes sustainable waste management within a resource management approach as its underlying theme starting with waste reduction. The aim is to drive waste up the hierarchy towards more recovery, re-use, recycling and composting and away from landfill. To achieve this additional waste management capacity and new types of facilities will be required. The new policies set targets to achieve these through the development documents now being prepared under the reformed planning system whilst ensuring that development does not harm the region’s environment or the quality of life of its people.

The maintenance of a healthy regional economy requires an adequate supply of minerals to support new housing building and deliver key infrastructure projects. Planning policy has to balance the essential requirements of the regional economy for minerals with the environmental impact arising from their extraction, processing and transport. The replacement regional minerals strategy, chapter 11 provides a set of policies and proposals to strike that balance.

The consultation period for the proposed changes to the draft chapters ended on 11 November 2005 with some 90 responses from individuals and organisations. Respondents were broadly supportive of the proposed changes.

The final consultation has not resulted in any significant changes to the minerals policies or principles.

There have been two significant changes in relation to waste as a result of the public consultation. The first involves new figures for waste to be managed as a result of updated and more accurate research. The amendments to the figures and policies W5, W6 and W13 for the region are minimal, but the amendments to table 4 in policy W7, where figures are given for each sub region, are, in some of the sub regions, more significant.

Secondly, there have been amendments to policy W17 and its supporting text to clarify the policy on the subject of development in the green belt. These changes are required for consistency with PPG2: green belts.

These chapters are integral and clearly identifiable parts of RPG9. It will be reviewed through the development of the spatial strategy for the south-east, “The South East Plan” the draft of which was submitted to the First Secretary of State on 31 March 2006.

Copies of the relevant documents are available in the Libraries of both Houses and electronically at: http://www.gose.gov.uk/gose/planning/regionalPlanning/

Defence

Modernising Defence

At a time when our armed forces are conducting operations around the world, it is important that the Ministry of Defence Department seeks every opportunity to ensure that every pound of the tax payer’s money devoted to defence is used to best effect. I am therefore announcing a number of improvements to the way in which we use that money.

Subject to consultation with the trades unions, we propose to make a number of changes to the organisation and processes by which we manage defence. Together, these changes will lead to better delivery of support to our armed forces and the front line.

In December 2005, the Department published the “Defence Industrial Strategy” (Cm 6697). The Defence Industrial Strategy set a challenge for both industry and the Department. We are asking industry to work more effectively with us, and in a number of sectors, to restructure better to meet our needs. We are working closely with them to achieve this. Equally, the strategy calls on the Department to make a step change in the manner in which it conducts the acquisition and management of military capability. In response, a senior official was appointed in January 2006, to conduct a review of current structures, organisation and processes to determine whether these support, encourage, hinder or obstruct the Department’s ability to deliver through- life capability management. The report—“Enabling Acquisition Change”—has now been presented to Ministers who, subject to consultation with the trades unions, have accepted its recommendations. A copy of the report has been placed in the Library of the House of Commons, and also can be viewed on the Department’s website.

The report stresses both the primacy of through-life considerations and that improving acquisition skills is critical to success. It recommends changes to the Department’s planning processes, including to the part played by the front line commands, and the governance of acquisition. These changes are designed to facilitate through-life capability management and to make the Department more agile against a background of rapid changes in the security environment and technology. The review also concluded that the Department should build on the progress made by the Defence Procurement Agency and the Defence Logistics Organisation to work more closely together by merging them. This will remove a fundamental barrier to through-life capability management: the continued existence of two organisations with separate identities and cultures, one that procures military capability and the other that supports it.

The new organisation will take the best from each organisation and form a single entity responsible for the procurement, maintenance and sustainment of military capability, continuing to draw on the private sector where this will provide best value for money. Its fundamental ethos will be the delivery of equipment and logistics capability to the front line and for operations. The chiefs of the Defence Logistics Organisation and the Defence Procurement Agency will jointly be responsible for creating the new organisation by April 2007. Arrangements will be put in place to run the new organisation under a unified management structure over the following 12 months while the new organisation establishes itself. An open competition will be run to appoint, from April 2008, the head of the new organisation.

Implementation of the recommendations will represent a significant change programme for the Department. Ministers and senior management are committed fully to taking it forward as swiftly as possible. However, throughout this period of change, delivering new capability and maintaining support to the front line will remain paramount.

Consistent with the decisions set out above and the commitments announced in the July 2004 White Paper: “Delivering Security in a Changing World: Future Capabilities”, I have decided that steps should be taken, again subject to consultation, to collocate elements of the Defence Logistics Organisation with the Defence Procurement Agency in the Bristol/Bath area. This will be a key part of the programme of improving efficiency and effectiveness across the Department in order better to support our armed forces. Collocation, which is estimated to produce savings of around £200 million over a 25-year period, will result in a reduction of 360 civilian posts. A further 100 military posts will be civilianised.

This decision involves the DLO withdrawing from a number of sites over the next five years. Initial withdrawals are planned from Andover south and Sapphire House, Telford; with subsequent withdrawals planned from RAF Brampton, Caversfield and Sherborne. The DLO will also drawdown from RAF Wyton. A presence is planned to be retained at Andover north, from where the supply chain will be controlled.

I can also confirm that Andover is the preferred site option for the new Headquarters Land Forces which will be formed from the integration of Headquarters Land Command, currently based in Wilton, and the Adjutant-General’s headquarters, currently based at Upavon. Subject to further work and final decisions next year, we envisage, from 1 April 2009, Headquarters Land Forces will be fully operational at Andover. This will provide the Army with a contemporary, integrated and efficient headquarters of about 1,750 military and civilian staff. Compared to current headquarters staffing levels this represents a reduction of about 240 civilian and 100 military posts and we expect this to be accompanied by a significant reduction in running costs.

Separately, I have also approved, subject to consultation, proposals to relocate to RAF Wyton those staff at RAF Brampton not affected by DLO/DPA collocation. This will enable the disposal of the Brampton site, unless an alternative defence use can be found, with attendant reductions in the Department’s running costs. These changes will lead to a reduction of between 50 and 100 posts, mostly civilian contractors.

I recognise that these decisions affect a large number of the Department’s employees and their families. I would like to place on record the Government’s appreciation of their hard work and dedication. The Department will work to minimise the impact by providing all the help it can for those affected, and avoiding compulsory redundancies where possible.

The Department is committed to modernising the way in which we deliver new equipment and support to the armed forces. In order to do this we must continually examine the way we do our business to improve the resources available to the front line. These changes are an essential part of that strategy.

Education and Skills

Student Finance

The Government published the report of the review of Higher Education Student Finance in England on 31 January at:

www.dfes.gov.uk/hegateway/hereform/studentfinance/index.cfm. The report set out recommendations and options to improve the administration of student finance. The Government have consulted interested parties, and have taken advice on the merits of the options in the report.

The Government acknowledge the important work which local authorities have undertaken over more than 40 years in administering student support. However, they believe there is an opportunity to use new technology to provide a radically better service, characterised by:

students applying online using a service built around their needs, and which sits alongside their making an application for a place in higher education;

more uniform service providing and faster decisions and payments; and

high quality information, advice and guidance, with more personalised support for those that need it, including an online financial calculator providing students with information on their entitlement to statutory support and comparing bursaries from different higher education institutions.

All this will be underpinned by a new accountability structure which concentrates on customers’ needs.

To achieve this, the Government will:

reform the Student Loans Company to become the customer-focused national delivery organisation for the service;

carefully manage the transition to the new customer-focused service (available for new students applying in September 2008 to enter higher education in the 2009-10 academic year), which will yield cost savings from around 2010-11;

retain and strengthen the existing partnership between HMRC and the Student Loans Company with the aim of improving further loan collections and customer service for graduates; and

consult on how to provide information, advice and guidance on student financial support.

My Department will engage customers in the detailed design work. We will also continue to work closely with the Student Loans Company as the new service is developed, and with the Local Government Association and wider local authority community to ensure a smooth transfer of functions to the company and maintenance of a good service to customers during the transition period.

Home Department

National Policing Board

In order to strengthen the tripartite governance of policing in England and Wales, I am, with the support of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the Association of Police Authorities (APA), establishing a National Policing Board. The main functions of the board will be to:

agree the Home Secretary’s annual national strategic priorities for policing and key priorities for the National Policing Improvement Agency;

set agreed priorities for the police reform programme;

enable Ministers, the professional leaders of the service and police authorities to monitor progress in implementing the reform programme and identify and overcome barriers to delivery; and

provide a regular forum for joint debate and three-way communication between the tripartite partners on the opportunities and challenges facing policing.

The board will be chaired by the Home Secretary and, reflecting its tripartite nature, will include representatives of the Home Office, including my hon. Friend, the Member for Harrow, East (Tony McNulty), the Minister for Policing, Security and Community Safety, and senior officials, ACPO, including the president of the association and the Metropolitan Police Commissioner and the APA, represented by the chair and vice-chair of the association. Also represented on the board will be HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary and the chair and chief executive of the National Policing Improvement Agency. The first meeting of the board is expected to take place in July.

A separate Policing Reference Group will enable other key stakeholders, including the police staff associations, unions and other bodies representing groups in the police service, to have a significant input into the work of the National Policing Board.

A summary of the key decisions and discussions of each meeting of the National Policing Board and Policing Reference Group will be posted on the Home Office police reform website within two weeks of the meeting.

International Development

Uganda

Following my visit to Uganda in May I wish to inform the House of the decision I have taken about the future level of UK poverty reduction budget support (PRBS) to Uganda.

When the current PRBS arrangement was signed in December 2004 we indicated that up to £55 million in PRBS would be available in the Ugandan 2006-07 financial year. Instead I have decided to keep our PRBS to Uganda in 2006-07 at £35 million. I have taken this decision because I have concerns about governance, public administration expenditure, and some of the Government’s new budget plans. The decision also takes into account continuing major humanitarian needs in northern Uganda, which the funds reallocated from PRBS will help to address.

Looking forward, I have decided to limit our core budget support allocation to £35 million in both 2007-08 and 2008-09. The balance of the Uganda programme will be used for project support, or for continuing humanitarian relief in the north. Should this humanitarian relief not be needed, I will give further consideration to the allocation of this money in the light of circumstances at the time.

Following my decision in December 2005 to cut £15 million of PRBS, I have decided not to make any further cut in the Ugandan 2005-06 financial year. This means that I am releasing now the £5 million that was withheld in December until after the elections. International observers, including those from the EU and Commonwealth, have concluded that, notwithstanding shortcomings, the elections passed generally peacefully, there was a high voter turnout and voting was generally well administered, transparent and competitive.