Written Ministerial Statements
Monday 15 January 2007
The Government’s long-term approach for financial capability, which is announced today, intends to raise consumers’ financial capability—the knowledge, skills and motivation to actively engage with their finances—to achieve lasting benefits for individuals, the financial services industry and the wider UK economy.
The Financial Services Authority (FSA) leads the national strategy on financial capability, working in partnership with the Government, industry and the voluntary sector. In 2006 the FSA identified low levels of financial capability across the UK population, and particularly among young people.
The Government have an active role to play in meeting the financial capability challenge. The Government’s long-term aspirations are to ensure that:
all adults in the UK have access to high quality generic financial advice to help them to engage with their financial affairs and make effective decisions about their money;
all children and young people have access to a planned and coherent programme of personal finance education, so that they leave school with the skills and confidence to manage their money well; and
a range of Government programmes is focused on improving financial capability, particularly to help those who are most vulnerable to the consequences of poor financial decisions.
To meet these aspirations the Government will review their policies and programmes with the potential to raise financial capability. This will include the curriculum, services aimed at children, young people and families, the child trust fund, adult skills, retirement planning, and effective signposting for information on personal finance from a range of Government services. To take forward this agenda the Government will:
set up an independent feasibility study, led by Otto Thoresen, chief executive of AEGON UK, to research and design a national approach to generic financial advice;
establish a ministerial group to develop, oversee and coordinate the Government’s work, ensuring a cross-cutting approach to financial capability; and
publish an action plan by the end of 2007, setting out how financial capability will be integrated into existing services, particularly for those most vulnerable to the consequences of poor financial skills.
The Government’s long-term approach forges an ambitious agenda that supports the wealth of emerging best practice by the FSA, the voluntary sector and the financial services industry. The Government are seeking views from stakeholders on the issues raised in the document.
Copies of the paper are available in the Vote Office, House Libraries and the Printed Paper Office.
Joint Committee on Human Rights Report
My right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State and Lord Chancellor has made the following written ministerial statement:
“I have today laid before the House the Government’s response to the Joint Committee on Human Rights report, of 14 November, on ‘the Human Rights Act: the DCA and Home Office Reviews’. Copies are available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. The Government’s response will also be made available on the Department for Constitutional Affairs website.
I would like to thank the Committee for their response to the DCA and Home Office reviews.
Following the findings of the DCA and Home Office reviews, the Government are continuing to work to equip public authorities to build a human rights culture within their organisations. The Government are pleased that the Committee agrees with the findings of the Home Office and DCA reviews that the Human Rights Act has not significantly impeded the Government’s objectives on crime, terrorism or immigration”.
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Agriculture and Fisheries Council
I represented the United Kingdom at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting in Brussels on 19 to 21 December 2006. Ross Finnie, the Scottish Environment and Rural Affairs Minister, also attended.
The Council adopted by unanimity Total Allowable Catches (TACs) and quotas and related measures fixing fishing opportunities for certain fish stocks for 2007.
I was keen that as many of the decisions taken as possible followed the scientific advice, while at the same time not undermining the long-term viability of the EU fishing industry. In this regard, a significant number of the UK’s key priorities were achieved, including TAC increases for certain nephrops and monkfish stocks in line with the science and the resistance of cuts in several stocks which had been proposed purely in response to previous low quota uptake.
The package also included further action to protect cod stocks including modest cuts in days for the UK whitefish fleet (reflecting the significant contribution to effort reduction they have already made), combined with larger cuts for the smaller mesh fisheries to take account of their significant contribution to cod mortality. I was prepared to accept these on the basis that we are now closer to ensuring a more even distribution of the responsibility for delivering cod recovery.
The Council held an exchange of views on Commission proposals for a management plan for plaice and sole in the North Sea. The proposal aims to manage the fisheries exploiting the stocks of North Sea plaice and sole so that they are rebuilt to—and then maintained—within safe biological limits. I supported the principle of such a management plan and was keen to encourage its development, providing it did not jeopardise the recovery of cod in the North Sea (with which it would operate in parallel). The Commission are committed to producing a revised plan in the light of the discussion for further consideration in due course.
The Council reached a “general approach” on a proposal to simplify and update the current regulation on organic food and farming (“general approach” being the term for an agreement reached before the European Parliament has issued its opinion). The presidency and Commission brokered a compromise which satisfied the UK’s principal concerns so I could intervene in support of the compromise but made clear that any future changes to the general approach should be technical and not substantial.
Over lunch on 19 December, the Austrian and Finnish Ministers shared experiences gained from managing their joint presidency programmes over the past year.
A number of issues, as follows, were raised under “any other business”: none of which required any intervention on behalf of the United Kingdom.
The Agriculture Commissioner presented her proposal for a Single Common Market Organisation (CMO). The proposal aims to consolidate the existing 21 sector-specific CMOs into a single regulation, in an effort to streamline and simplify the legal framework.
Austria and Germany, asked for measures to stabilise the EU sugar market, to prevent massive surpluses of sugar in the marketing year 2007-08 (year two of the implementation of the sugar restructuring scheme).
Poland expressed concerns regarding the low prices in the Polish pigmeat market sector and requested urgent export refunds and private storage aid to be put in place to alleviate this situation.
The Council took note without discussion of a progress report on the negotiations on the Commission’s communication on a thematic strategy and accompanying proposal on the sustainable use of pesticides.
The Council also took note of a written update provided by the Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner on the developments on avian influenza H5N1.
On day one of the Council, in the absence of the Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner, the Commission gave an update on the EC-Russian Federation veterinary and phytosanitary agreement negotiations and Council adopted a statement supporting the Commissioner’s efforts. On day two, the Commissioner returned from Moscow to update Council on his negotiations with the Russian Agriculture Minister the previous day, and to outline details of the agreement he reached in order to avert the threat of a ban.
Finally, the Czech Republic, asked the Commission to postpone application of the Council regulation, on the protection of animals during transport to 2009, due to problems in implementing the regulation by January 2007.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Independent Monitor for Entry Clearance Refusals Without the Right of Appeal for Refusal Decisions Made in 2005
I have placed in the Library of the House copies of the 2005 report by Linda Costelloe Baker, “The Independent Monitor for Entry Clearance Refusals Without the Right of Appeal”. A copy is also available on the UKvisas website at: www.ukvisas.co.uk, together with their response to the monitor’s recommendations.
Mrs. Costelloe Baker’s report is based on a sample of entry clearance refusals without full rights of appeal, made in 2005. It focuses on decision quality with recommendations on how UKvisas can further improve in this area. I welcome the recommendations, which UKvisas will implement.
I wish to express my thanks to Mrs. Costelloe Baker for her hard work in completing this, her first report as Independent Monitor for Entry Clearance Refusals Without the Right of Appeal. Her next report will cover the period January to September 2006 and will be published in spring 2007.
Today, the Department has issued joint guidelines with the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) and British Generic Manufacturers Association (BGMA). These guidelines will give guidance to companies on how to communicate and manage potential shortages of a particular medicine and will mean better and more effective working between the Government and industry in this area.
Shortages of medicines are caused by a number of factors:
supply and demand imbalance;
raw material problems; and
When there is a shortage of a particular medicine, this new guidance will encourage companies to give early notice to the Department in cases that patient care will be adversely affected. This will enable a contingency plan to be formed and will give time for alternative suppliers or medicines to be found when possible or for options to be found for managing the shortage. This will help reduce the effect of any shortage on the National Health Service and patient care.
These guidelines follow the successful guidelines between Government and the ABPI on the discontinuation of medicines. Those guidelines have meant that on several occasions, the effect of discontinuations on patients has been minimised.
The new guidelines have been placed in the Library and are available on the Department’s website at: www.dh.gov.uk/medicinesupply.
Ilex Urban Regeneration Company Limited (Annual Report and Financial Statement)
I have deposited copies of the annual report and financial statements of Ilex URC Ltd. for the year ended 31 March 2006 incorporating the auditor’s report in the Libraries of both Houses.
Fraud Act 2006
My right hon. Friend the Attorney-General has made the following written ministerial statement:
“On 29 March 2006, I indicated that he would issue final guidance to prosecutors about the use of the common law conspiracy to defraud offence following the commencement of the Fraud Act”.
I am pleased to inform the House that I have today placed in the Library a copy of this guidance.
In addition, this will be issued to the directors of the prosecuting authorities, to the Law Society and the Bar Council shortly.
Section 29 Unlicensed Vehicles in Scotland
My answer to parliamentary question UIN 113076, 8 January 2007, Official Report, column 222-223W regarding unnamed section 29 unlicensed vehicles in Scotland, contained several inaccuracies.
The answer to the parliamentary question should have read—
a. January-December 2004
Unnamed S29 cases created 50517
No of cases summonsed 2802
No of cases successful 1625
b. January-December 2005
Unnamed S29 cases created 41812
No of cases summonsed 1991
No of cases successful 1121
c. January-November 2006
Unnamed S29 cases created 33695
No of cases summonsed 708
No of cases successful 324
The ability of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency to carry out successful enforcement activity against motorists who use their vehicles and do not pay road tax is constantly under review and strategies are revised to meet changing needs.
The number of S29 cases has decreased since the introduction in March 04 of continuous registration enforcement from the record.
The requirement to submit S29 cases electronically to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service for prosecution, and the problems encountered in establishing this link led to a decrease in the number of prosecutions and an increase in the pursuit of these offenders by wheel-clamping activity.
A suitable method of transmitting cases electronically has now been found.