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Written Statements

Volume 453: debated on Monday 27 November 2006

Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 27 November 2006

Treasury

ECOFIN (28 November)

Items on the agenda are as follows:

Stability and Growth Pact

Ministers will be invited to adopt a 104(8) Council Decision regarding Poland's Excessive Deficit Procedure.

Economic Reform

ECOFIN will be invited to adopt conclusions on multilateral surveillance of the first progress reports on the Lisbon National Reform Programmes and on Global Factor Flows, in preparation for the European Council on 14-15 December.

Statistical burdens

Ministers will be invited to adopt Conclusions on reducing the administrative burdens caused by statistics in the EU.

Facility for Euro-Mediterranean Investment and Partnership (FEMIP)-

ECOFIN will be invited to adopt Conclusions on the review of FEMIP.

European Investment Bank (EIB) External Lending Mandates

Ministers will be invited to agree on a general approach on the future of the EIB External Lending Mandates.

Payment Services

ECOFIN will receive a progress report from the Finnish Presidency on the Directive on Payment Services in the Internal Market.

Clearing and Settlement

Ministers will receive a presentation from the Commission on its approach to tackling barriers in the clearing and settlement industry and will be invited to adopt Conclusions on this approach.

Combating Tax Fraud

ECOFIN will be invited to agree on Conclusions on future work to combat tax fraud.

Minimum Rates on Alcoholic Beverages

Ministers will discuss further issues relating to the minimum excise rates on alcoholic beverages.

Travellers' Allowance Directive

ECOFIN will discuss issues relating to the Travellers' Allowance Directive.

VAT Package

Ministers will be invited to adopt a general approach to extend the 2003 e-Commerce arrangements and to agree Council Conclusions on continuing with the work to modernise and simplify the VAT system.

Code of Conduct on Harmful Tax Competition

ECOFIN will be invited to take note of a progress report from the Code of Conduct Group on Business Taxation and adopt Conclusions on the future work of the Group.

Company Tax

Ministers will hear an oral progress report from the Commission on company tax obstacles hindering the function of the internal market.

Constitutional Affairs

Community Justice

My right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State and Lord Chancellor has made the following written ministerial statement:

“As announced in paper “Delivering Simple, Summary, Speedy Justice” published in July 2006, the Government wish to establish 10 further community justice initiatives. This is to build on the community justice initiatives already underway at the North Liverpool Community Justice Centre and the Salford Magistrates' Court. Community justice makes a key contribution to the Government's Respect Action Plan, which was published in January 2006. It aims to strengthen the links between the courts, the criminal justice system and the local community so that local people's confidence in the work of the courts and the wider criminal justice system increases. In particular we want to build on the work judges and magistrates already carry out to deliver community justice. Magistrates demonstrate a huge commitment to public service and to making their communities better and safer places to live.

I can announce today that we will be extending community justice to Birmingham, Bradford, Devon and Cornwall, Kingston upon Hull, Leicestershire, Merthyr Tydfil, Middlesbrough and Nottingham. Additionally, we will develop two initiatives in London. We will now work with the local agencies and the judiciary in those areas to establish details of how these initiatives will operate in practice and precisely where they will be located.

The aim of this next phase of community justice work will be to provide further learning and best practice so that in the long term the principles of community justice are applied in the courts and the criminal justice system throughout England and Wales. In doing this, we will give the local areas flexibility to adapt community justice to their needs and circumstances so that the needs of their community are met in the way that works best for them. These initiatives will be founded, however, on the following key principles:

Courts connecting to the community. There should be significant liaison between the courts and the local community so that local people should value the courts as a community resource. Examples of this include holding regular meetings with community representatives, working with local crime and disorder reduction partnerships or police consultative groups and attending community events. The community should also be able to put forward its view on the impact that the crime has had on it so that the court has a view of the wider context of the crime. We will look at how this might be achieved in this new phase of community justice work.

Justice seen to be done. Local people should be better informed about the work of the court and have an opportunity to put forward its views on the way offending is tackled. Compliance with the court's orders or other penalties should be seen and recognised by the community with their problems are addressed. We will look in detail at the involvement of the community in the establishment of the court. Local magistrates, whose contribution to their local communities is already recognised as important, will volunteer to take part in the new schemes and the community already provides input to the advisory committees that make recommendations on the appointment of magistrates.

Cases handled robustly and speedily. Community justice should enable swift resolution of cases through rigorous and effective case management as well as harnessing the combined potential of a range of agencies working together. Increasing speed in listing cases, reducing delays created by unnecessary adjournments, ensuring offenders begin sentences promptly and acting swiftly on failures to turn up to court or comply with sentence will all contribute towards increasing community confidence in the effectiveness of the court. Much of this has been fed into the wider “Delivering Simple, Summary, Speedy Justice” paper.

Strong independent judiciary. The judiciary carry enormous authority over offenders and criminal justice agencies and thus have a potentially powerful role to play in promoting compliance with court orders and tackling offending behaviour. Community justice should enable the judiciary to direct hearings, lead the problem solving approach, and maintain oversight over offenders' progress post-sentence.

Solving problems and finding solutions. Problem solving is at the heart of the community justice approach in the Court. In essence, it means making use of a range of available service providers in order to address and tackle the underlying causes of offending. Problem solving can operate both at a community level—tackling safety concerns raised by local people—and also when dealing with individual offenders at court.

Working together. This enables consistency, builds trust and promotes a team approach to decision making and dealing with offenders. Collaboration ensures that a range of agencies, necessary for problem solving, are available to the court. In sum it empowers the court to deliver an end-to-end service to offenders, victims and the community.

Repairing harm and raising confidence. Victims and witnesses must be kept fully informed and supported from their first contact with the system until after the case has concluded. The new schemes will seek the views of the community on what projects should be the subject of unpaid work requirements imposed as part of a community punishment order; for example, through newsletters, advertising or by canvassing views at public meetings. These unpaid work projects should then be badged once completed so the community can see what has been achieved.

Reintegrating offenders and building communities. Community justice can play a crucial role in improving social bonds and cohesion within the community. More specifically, this involves developing pathways to support the re-integration of offenders back into their community.

I believe these new community justice initiatives will build on the achievements of the North Liverpool and Salford projects. They will demonstrate further how the courts, the wider criminal justice system and the public can be brought Closer together to foster new relationships that work to make justice better for everyone.”

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution

DEFRA is today launching a review of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (RCEP), which will focus on the following issues:

Effectiveness and impact of RCEP reports since the last review;

RCEP funding and performance since the last review;

Relationship with Government and other organisations, with an interest in the activities of the RCEP

The RCEP is an independent standing body established in 1970 to advise the Queen, the Government, Parliament and the public on environmental issues. Its primary role is to contribute to policy development by providing an authoritative factual basis for policy-making and debates, and setting new policy agendas and priorities. Although independent of Government Departments, it is funded by DEFRA, to which it is also accountable for its use of resources.

It is recommended that non-departmental public bodies undergo a review every few years to evaluate their performance. The last review of the RCEP was carried out in 1999. As the sponsoring Department, DEFRA, on behalf of Government, will lead on the new review. We aim to have completed the review by Spring 2007. A draft scope for the review has been set out in annexe 1. Further information about the Royal Commission, including its recent work, is set out in annexe 2.

Once the review has reported, DEFRA will examine its recommendations and see how they should be implemented, in particular, by reviewing the agreement setting out the framework within which the relationship between the two bodies operates. Should it prove necessary, DEFRA will then bring forward proposals to change the framework document and alter the way that the RCEP operates.

Copies of the scoping document will be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses and will also be available on the DEFRA website at www.defra.gov.uk/environment/rcep/index.htm.

Health

System Management and Reform

Today I am publishing two publications which will take forward our commitment to place patients and the public at the heart of the way our health services are run: “The future regulation of health and adult social care in England“ and,

“Code of Practice for promotion of NHS services” which covers promotional activity directed at both the public and commissioners.

“The future regulation of health and adult social care in England” takes forward our commitment to provide a clear and refocused approach to regulation and a framework for management of the health and adult social care systems. This document brings together our response to the wider review of regulation about which we notified Parliament on 19 October 2005, Official Report, column 56WS.

This document is the latest in a suite of publications providing more detail on my Department's proposals for health reform. In recent years, the National Health Service (NHS) and adult social care services in England have responded to profound challenges and change. There have been substantial improvements in services in both sectors, which have delivered significant benefits for patients and service users. But, demographic changes, peoples' rising expectations and advances in medical technology will place demands on both systems to go on improving services.

In all public services, we are making a radical shift from top-down, target-driven performance management to a more bottom-up, self-improving system built around the individual needs of service users and influenced by effective engagement with the public. Increasingly, improvement will be driven by the choices made by service users and healthy competition between different service providers. The NHS and adult social care services are no exception.

This document describes how independent regulation will support these changes in future, within the context of cross-Government objectives to reduce the burden of regulation. The overall aim is to give people the best and safest care possible, with the best possible value for public money. We want to see effective management of the system backed by regulation that gives patients and service users confidence that whichever provider they choose, whether public, private or third sector, they can be assured of a safe and high quality service.

It makes clear our commitment to merge the Healthcare Commission (HC), the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) and the Mental Health Act Commission (MHAC) and sets out the rationale for the merger. The plans to merge form one of the key strands in the Government's strategy to reform public service inspection. The new organisation will enable greater flexibility in response to an evolving adult health and social care system.

Bringing together the regulation of NHS and adult social care services will have many benefits. It makes sense to patients and service users who want integrated services. It makes sense to service providers who want simple, less burdensome regulation. It makes sense to commissioners who want jointly to commission health and adult social care services. And, it makes sense to the taxpayer who wants regulation to offer value for money.

The proposed merger has provided an opportunity for us to review the functions required of the merged regulator in light of our health reforms and the Local Government White Paper, “Strong and Prosperous Communities”. We have undertaken a detailed assessment of what functionality will be appropriate to ensure that the new regulator will be fit for purpose.

The document outlines what particular regulatory functions will be needed to be undertaken from 2008 onwards, and by whom—the new regulator and other organisations in the wider health and adult social care systems. The change will be evolutionary not revolutionary, building on the excellent work to date by the HC, CSCI and MHAC, to move to a more risk based approach. They will remain in place during the transition period until the establishment of the new regulator.

In addition, the new regulator will inherit and continue the important role currently undertaken by the MHAC in England. In a separate process, we will review the necessary duties and powers required by the new regulator to keep under review the operation of mental health legislation; to ensure that mental health service users are as effectively protected by the new regulator as they are now and to emphasise the importance of equality and human rights in mental health care. This will learn lessons from the effective visiting programme that commissioners have undertaken.

This document launches a three-month consultation on the operational aspects of the identified functions and further detail will be published in spring 2007 in response to the consultation.

Patients have always had a keen interest in their healthcare and patient choice is now a reality in the NHS. Coupled with access to clinical quality information, this will help drive up standards across the NHS. Providers will want to make more information about their services available to patients and referring clinicians in order to help them make choices and advise patients. Appropriate levels of promotional activity by providers are a way of making this information more easily available.

Through promotional activity, providers will develop a better understanding of the needs and wants of patients and GPs. This will enable them to respond and reshape services accordingly and deliver services that better meet those needs.

The “Code of Practice for promotion of NHS services” published today describes how a self-regulatory approach to promotional activity will support these changes, ensuring that information is accurate and reliable. These proposals have been developed by the Department following preliminary discussions with the NHS confederation and a number of stakeholders. This document launches a three-month consultation on the draft code of practice.

I commend these documents to the House.

Copies of both today's publications have been placed in the Library.

Home Department

Local Policing

I have today placed in the Library a copy of the proposals of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for allocation of specific grant to police authorities in England and Wales for Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) and the neighbourhood policing Fund in 2007-08.

In summary, this settlement provides for an increase of 41 per cent. in funding for Police and Community Support Officers and neighbourhood policing in 2007-08 and indicates our willingness to consider additional flexibility on the Crime Fighting Fund for all forces in 2007-08. We are making these changes in response to requests from the police service itself for greater flexibilities and freedoms in order to decide locally the best way of delivering visible, responsive, and accessible policing.

The Government announced last year provisional funding totals for both 2006-07 and 2007-08. The introduction of multi-year settlements for the first time was widely welcomed by police authorities as a means of providing greater certainty and improving medium term planning. In addition to the settlement which provided £88 million through the neighbourhood policing Fund in 2006-07, the Chancellor added a further £91 million in the Budget in April 2006 to accelerate the introduction of neighbourhood policing to every community by April 2007. The target is to achieve 16,000 PCSOs in place across England and Wales by the end of April 2007.

Accelerating the timetable for introducing neighbourhood policing during 2006-07 has provided the opportunity to reassess the position in 2007-08 and to review requirements for the continued rollout of neighbourhood policing. We have listened carefully to requests from the police service for greater flexibilities and freedoms in order to decide locally the best way of delivering visible, responsive, and accessible policing. I am confident that the police service is making excellent progress towards the introduction of neighbourhood policing in every community in England and Wales by April 2007. Overall, as at the end of August 2006, delivery has already extended to approximately 6,700 neighbourhoods which have dedicated neighbourhood policing. This equates to about 2,600 teams in total as some teams cover more than one neighbourhood. The proportion of sergeants, constables and PCSOs dedicated to neighbourhood policing averages 18 per cent. across England and Wales. The next priority will therefore be to complete the full rollout of neighbourhood policing teams by March 2008 in a sustainable manner that takes account of local needs and circumstances. The Home Secretary and I accept the argument put forward by the police service itself that the delivery of neighbourhood policing does not necessarily need 24,000 PCSOs. This settlement therefore provides continuing support towards 16,000 PCSOs in 2007-08 and we will not expect forces to increase the number of PCSOs beyond that number. They may choose to do so according to local circumstances and need as with police officers and other staff. We will make available the sum of £315 million in 2007-08 to fund PCSOs and the introduction of neighbourhood policing. That sum includes £235 million to be allocated through the neighbourhood policing fund, £45 million towards the costs of those PCSOs recruited in 2002-2004 and an additional sum of £35 million to help forces manage the wider costs of delivering neighbourhood policing. This represents an overall increase of 41 per table (table 1). This will support the continued rollout of neighbourhood policing to have a dedicated team embedded into every area in England and Wales by 2008. We expect forces to continue rolling out neighbourhood policing during 2007-08 and have provided the means for it to be delivered.

In addition, we announced in January an extra £52 million for the police for counter-terrorism in 2007-08.

We have also indicated our willingness to consider additional flexibility on the Crime Fighting Fund for all forces in 2007-08. The nature and scale of this flexibility is the subject of discussions between the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Association of Police Authorities and the Home Office, and agreement on this is expected by the end of the year. We are clear that any flexibility that is granted will not have a direct impact on the front line deployment of officers or any reduction in operational capacity.

Table 1: Specific grant allocations in 2007-08 compared with 2006-07

2006-07 (£ million)

2007-08 (£ million)

2007-08 year on year increases (percentage)

Specific grants

Neighbourhood Policing Fund

88

270

206.8

Extra Provision for faster expansion of PCSOs

91

0

-100.0

Community Support Officers

44

45

2.3

Grand total

223

315

41.3

Table 2: Specific grant (Police Community Support Officers) allocations by English and Welsh police authority 2007-08

£ million

2006-07

2007-08

English Shire forces

Avon and Somerset

5.1

6.8

Bedfordshire

1.9

2.6

Cambridgeshire

2.6

3.4

Cheshire

3.2

4.5

Cleveland

1.6

1.9

Cumbria

1.5

2.2

Derbyshire

2.5

3.4

Devon and Cornwall

5

7

Dorset

2.2

3

Durham

2.3

3.1

Essex

5

6.7

Gloucestershire

2.3

3

Hampshire

4.8

7

Hertfordshire

3.6

4.9

Humberside

3.1

4.4

Kent

5.4

7.4

Lancashire

5.8

7.6

Leicestershire

3.3

4.4

Lincolnshire

2.1

2.6

Norfolk

2.7

3.7

North Yorkshire

2.4

3.2

Northamptonshire

2.1

2.8

Nottinghamshire

3.9

5.1

Staffordshire

3.1

4.1

Suffolk

2.1

2.8

Surrey

3.2

4.1

Sussex

4.9

6.7

Thames Valley

6.2

8.5

Warwickshire

1.9

2.6

West Mercia

3.5

4.9

Wiltshire

1.9

2.6

Shires total

101.2

136.7

English Metropolitan forces

Greater Manchester

12

16.1

Merseyside

7

9.1

Northumbria

6.1

8.3

South Yorkshire

4.4

6.1

West Midlands

10.6

14.8

West Yorkshire

10.2

13..2

Mets total

50.3

67.6

London forces

GLA – Police

58.9

94.1

City of London

0.9

1.2

London total

59.8

95.3

English total

211.3

299.5

Welsh forces

Dyfed-Powys

1

1.3

Gwent

2.1

2.5

North Wales

2.3

3.1

South Wales

4.7

6.2

Welsh total

10.1

13.1

Rounding/Contingency

2.4

Total

221.4

315

Note:

Rounded to the nearest £100,000.