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Written Statements

Volume 457: debated on Friday 23 February 2007

Written Ministerial Statements

Friday 23 February 2007

Constitutional Affairs

Spring Supplementary Estimate 2006-07

Subject to parliamentary approval of any necessary supplementary estimate, the Department for Constitutional Affairs, Northern Ireland Court Service and National Archives: Public Records Office and Historical Manuscripts Commission total departmental expenditure limit (DEL) will be increased by £40,811 from £4,061,782,000 to £4,102,593 and the administration costs limit will be increased by £1,849 from £574,473 to £576,322

Within the DEL change, the impact on resources and capital are as set out in the following table:

£’000s

Changes

New DEL

Voted

Non-voted

Voted

Non-voted

Total

Resource DEL:

42,105

-899

1,797,623

2,247,127

4,044,750

Of which:

Administration

1,849

0

576,322

0

576,322

Near cash in RDEL

-15,343

38,348

1,476,799

2,367,603

3,844,402

Capital

-395

0

189,299

2,000

191,299

Depreciation*

0

0

-133,435

-21

-133,456

Total

41,710

-899

1,853,487

2,249,106

4,102,593

*Depreciation, which forms part of resource DEL, is excluded from the total DEL since capital DEL includes capital spending and to include depreciation of those assets would lead to double counting.

The change in the resource element of the Department for Constitutional Affairs DEL arises from:

Resource Change: Admin (total increase of £2,272,000)

RfR1

Take up of End-Year Flexibility (EYF):

(i) £1,600,000 additional resources as near cash (admin) in relation to additional costs associated with LIBRA and ARAM IS contracts. A draw down of The National Archives EYF entitlement.

Other Increase:

(ii) £672,000 increase in resource from the Cabinet Office to cover the move to a hard-charging regime for costs of the Parliamentary Council Office.

Resource Change: Programme (total increase of £6,592,000)

RfR1

Take up of End-Year Flexibility (EYF):

(i) £4,400,000 additional resources as near cash in relation to additional costs associated with LIBRA and ARAMIS contracts. A draw down of DCA’s EYF entitlement.

Other Increase:

(ii) £1,460,000 for compensation of implementation of Custody Plus, from the Home Office,

(iii) £119,000 for CJS Training Costs (HMCS) for Custody Plus, from the Home Office,

(iv) £129,000 for CJIT costs incurred on the Bichard Recommendation IT solution project, from the Home Office.

(v) £460,000 in relation to PROGRESS, from Crown Prosecution Service,

(vi) £24,000 in relation to CJS Training Costs (DCA HQ) for Custody Plus, from Home Office.

Resource Change: Admin (total decrease of £500,000)

RfR1

(i) A reduction in resource spending (£500,000—admin costs) to facilitate spending on minor works within The National Archives. This is offset in budgetary terms by a reallocation of DEL cover from within the Department of Constitutional Affairs group.

Resource Change: Programme (total decrease of £13,189,000)

Other Decrease:

(i) A reallocation in resource DEL (£1,000,000) to Department for Communities and Local Government in respect of Commission for Equality and Human Rights,

(ii) A reduction in resource DEL (£1,190,000) and a reallocation to the National Assembly for Wales for spending on the extra burdens for Local Authorities arising from the Electoral Administration Act 2006.

(iii) A reduction in resource DEL (£2,000,000) and reallocation to Home Office in relation to Local Criminal Justice Boards.

(iv) A reduction in resource DEL (£334,000) and re-allocation to Home Office for spending on the Site Acceptance Testing Environment,

(v) A reduction in resource DEL (£2,500,000) and re-allocation to Home Office for spending on the NES IT Programme Pathfinder Phase,

(vi) A reduction in resource DEL (£165,000) and re-allocation to Home Office for, spending on PROGRESS.

(vii) A reduction in spending (£6,000,000) and reallocation of resource DEL to Home Office in respect of Single Asylum Fund.

Resource Change: Admin (total increase of £77,000)

RfR2

Other Increase:

(i) An increase in resources (£76,000—admin) to Scotland Office. A transfer from the Scottish Executive,

(ii) An increase in resources (£1,000) in relation to a token vote.

Resource Change: Programme (total increase of £19,000,000)

Take up of End-Year Flexibility (EYF):

(i) Additional non-voted resources (£3,000,000) to cover spending on elections. A draw down of non-voted DEL EYF to the Scotland Office.

Other Increase:

(ii) An increase in non-voted resources (£16,000,000) to cover spending on elections. A transfer from the Scottish Assembly.

The change in the resource element of the Northern Ireland Court Service DEL arises from:

Resource Change: Programme (total increase of £454,000)

Take up of End-Year Flexibility (EYF):

(i) Additional grant (£454,000) payable to the Northern Ireland Legal Services Commission (NILSC) for expenditure on publicly funded Legal Services.

Non-Voted Budget Change: Non-Cash (total increase of £26,000,000)

Other Increases:

(i) Additional non-cash draw down (£26,000,000) from the Department for Constitutional Affairs EYF in respect of the non-cash resource consumption of the NILSC. This arises from a revised forecast of the NILSC's resource requirement for 2006-07.

The change in the resource element of The National Archives DEL arises from:

Resource Change: Admin (total increase of £500,000)

Other Increases:

(i) £500,000 net resources resulting from a switch from Capital to Resource spend offset by switch within The Department for Constitutional Affairs to facilitate spending on minor works.

The change in the capital element of the Department for Constitutional Affairs DEL arises from:

Capital Change (total increase of £670,000)

RfR1

Transfer from Other Government Departments:

(i) Increase in capital (£170,000) to reflect a reallocation of CJIT capital from Home Office.

Other Increases:

(ii) Increase in capital spending (£500,000). This is offset in budgetary terms by a reallocation of DEL cover from within the Department for Constitutional Affairs group.

Capital Change (total decrease of £565,000)

Other Increases:

(i) A reduction in capital DEL (£258,000) in relation to CJIT ring-fenced funding transferred to Home Office for spending on the Site Acceptance Testing Environment.

(ii) A reduction in capital DEL (£307,000) in relation to CJIT ring-fenced funding transferred to Home Office for spending on PROGRESS.

There is no change in the capital element of the Northern Ireland Court Service DEL

The change in the capital element of The National Archives DEL arises from: Capital Change (total decrease of £500,000.)

Other Decreases:

(i) A reduction in capital spending (£500,000) resulting from Capital to Resource spend offset by switch within the Department for Constitutional Affairs to facilitate spending on minor works.

Education and Skills

Education and Youth Council

Anne Lambert, UK deputy permanent representative to the EU, attended the Education and Youth Council on behalf on the UK.

Ministers discussed the following issues:

Education

Contribution of the Council (in the field of education) to spring European Council

1. The Council adopted the key messages to the spring European Council without comment.

Looking beyond 2010—developing the ‘Education and Training 2010’ work programme

2. Ministers had an exchange of views on developing the ‘Education and Training 2010’ work programme. The UK said that skills had to form a central part of Europe’s response to globalisation. However, low skills levels are a shared problem among member states, as shown by the EU’s poor track record in reducing early school leaving. The Council should play a stronger role in supporting the necessary reforms by identifying good practice and peer review. The UK asked the Commission to make proposals for focusing the work programme, its structures and working methods, more on the Lisbon integrated guidelines and skills issues.

3. Our comments on the Lisbon agenda were echoed by some member states, including Finland, Denmark and France. However, most Ministers chose to focus on the role of education in social cohesion, rather than growth, jobs and competitiveness.

Youth

Contribution of the Council (in the field of youth policy) to the spring European Council on the implementation of the European Pact for Youth

4. The key messages to the spring European Council on the implementation of the European Pact for Youth were adopted without comment.

Reflection paper on the future perspectives for European youth policy

5. Ministers discussed the future form of European youth policy, based on a reflection paper prepared by the presidency. Several member states asked for a stronger role of the Youth Council, for example in co-ordinating exchanges of good practice, and for better co-ordination with other Council formations.

6. The UK said that youth policies are most effective when they were cross-cutting and local. We want to exchange good practice with other these areas. However, co-operation at EU level has to be properly based on local needs and developed as part of an integrated strategy. The Youth Pact and the existing open method of coordination are the right mechanisms for taking this forward. We do not need new structures and mechanisms.

AOB

7. Poland and Greece asked for the development of a European action plan on combating violence in schools. The Commission said it would take this topic into account in its forthcoming consultation and Communication on schools policy. Portugal, as the incoming presidency, urged caution. They stated that we should be careful not to over-simplify the problem of violence. More information and data about the situation in the member states was needed before any EU initiative was taken.

8. The Commission circulated a note on a possible European Year linking education, culture and creativity in 2009. An inter-institutional declaration on this subject is expected to be agreed in the second half of 2007.

Health

Patient Power Review Report

As recommended by Ofcom in their report of January 2006 into the price of making telephone calls to hospital patients, the Department set up a Patient Power Review Group (PPRG) in February 2006 to explore how communication services could be offered to hospital patients with a lower per minute price for incoming calls. The PPRG’s report will be published today.

The Patient Power Review Group has considered:

all aspects of the charging structure;

the requirement to install, with limited clinical exceptions, units at every bedside within a hospital site, irrespective of use;

the requirement to offer services through a combined unit, offering television and telephone and capable of offering added value services; and

the need to clarify guidance on use of mobile phones in hospitals

The Department welcomes this comprehensive report which sets out the complexity of the issues raised by Ofcom and remains committed to giving patients more choice and control over their environment.

Consequently, the Department will continue to work with the suppliers to look at how changes can be made to deliver benefits to patients, their families and the NHS from these systems. It will relax the licensing arrangements from February 2007, removing the constraints identified by Ofcom for new contracts, and issue guidance that clarifies where mobile phones can be used in hospitals without infringing patient privacy and dignity.

Copies of the PPRG’s report and the Department’s response have been placed in the Library and are available on the Departments website at:

www.dh.dov.uk/PolicyAndGuidance/OrganisationPolicy/Estates AndFacilitiesManagement/fs/en

The Department of Health’s response to the bedside televisions and telephones (Patient Power) Patient Power Review Group report, published 23 February 2007.

Following a number of complaints about the cost of incoming call charges to bedside telephones, Ofcom launched an investigation into the patient power systems, introduced by the NHS plan. In January 2006, the investigation concluded on the basis that the Department of Health and the service providers would work together to address the issues raised.

The Department of Health set up a review group to explore all aspects of the charging structure, the requirement to install (with limited clinical exceptions) units at every bedside within a hospital site, irrespective of use, and clarify the guidance issued by the Department of Health in respect of trusts exercising their own discretion in determining the local policy on the use of mobile phones in hospitals.

The review group published its findings in a report on 23 February 2007. It contains six recommendations for the Department of Health to consider. The Department’s response to these recommendations is shown below:

Patient Power Review—Recommendation (i): The Department of Health should continue to support the roll-out of the patient power programme across the NHS and, with the service providers, should engage in further discussions about potential mechanisms to address incoming call charges.

Government response: The roll-out of the patient power programme is complete, in respect of the NHS Plan commitment (July 2000). All targeted major hospitals have now signed a contract with their chosen supplier to provide the service, and over 160 hospitals have an operational system in place. The Department will continue to work with suppliers, to consider further ways of reducing the incoming call charges to the benefit of all users of the bedside systems.

Patient Power Review—Recommendation (ii): The Department of Health should encourage trusts to review economic and infection-control related best practice concerning the in-house cleaning of bedside units.

Government response: The patient power national licence assumes that the service providers are responsible for cleaning the terminals as part of the general maintenance programme. The non-extension of the national licence will pave the way for NHS trusts and service providers to renegotiate the terms on which the bedside units are cleaned for the benefit of the NHS and the service providers.

Patient Power Review—Recommendation (iii): The Department of Health should continue to work closely with the service providers to support the development of the income generation projects that provide additional benefits for patients and staff.

Government response: The take-up of the additional services for the NHS has been slow to materialise, which suggests that trusts are not convinced about the benefits to patients and the cost savings to be made. Five pilot projects have been identified to address this issue and the Department will continue to work with the service providers to determine the benefits, to patients and the NHS, of these services. Although the Department cannot mandate the services into the NHS it will communicate the potential benefits to help it to make a decision on whether to invest in any or all of them.

Patient Power Review—Recommendation (iv): The Department of Health should issue further guidance to NHS trusts on the use of mobile phones.

Government response: The Department will promote the current guidance, and in response to inquiries from the NHS, will issue further guidance in spring 2007. It will focus on privacy and dignity issues, and point out what NHS trusts need to consider when determining where to ban and where to allow the use of mobile phones.

Patient Power Review—Recommendation (v): The Department of Health should give careful consideration to future licensing arrangements, following the expiry of the current licences in February 2007.

Government response: The review has been made more difficult by the complexity of the licence and concession agreements. Therefore, the Department will not renew the current licensing arrangements. In doing so, it will remove the constraints that Ofcom identified in its investigation. Current concessions remain valid for their duration but may be renegotiated with the agreement of both parties. Trusts without a system in place can work locally, with service providers to negotiate a new contract.

Patient Power Review—Recommendation (vi): The Department of Health should reply formally to Ofcom’s letter of 19 January 2006 in which it set out the findings and recommendations of its investigation.

Government response: The Department will formally reply to Ofcom’s letter of 19 January 2006.

Trade and Industry

EU Competitiveness Council in Brussels

The EU Competitiveness Council took place in Brussels on 19 February. Anne Lambert, deputy permanent representative to the EU represented the UK. Michael Glos, German Federal Minister of Economics and Technologies, chaired the Council.

Action programme for reducing administrative burden

The first item on the agenda was a public debate on the Commission’s action plan for reducing administrative burdens. The Council endorsed the proposal for a target to reduce burdens arising from EU legislation by 25 per cent. by 2012, with member states to set targets for reducing burdens within their own administrations next year. The UK spoke in favour of an EU target and a national target, and reinforced to the Commission the importance of conducting impact assessments for its proposals.

CARS 21

The next item on the agenda was the Commission’s recently published communication on a modern regulatory framework for the automotive industry. The Commission stressed that an integrated approach was required to ensure that both the sustainability and competitiveness aspects were taken into account. There was initial discussion of the Commission communication and it is expected that there will be follow-up discussion at the next Competitiveness Council in May.

Key Issues Paper

The competitiveness Council agreed a key issues paper which will be put to the spring European Council in March. The key issues paper is in line with UK priorities for economic reform and concentrates on five areas of action: the completion of the internal market; better regulation and reduction of administrative burdens for enterprises; investments in research, knowledge and innovation; industrial policy and Europe’s business potential; and strengthening Europe’s external competitiveness.

Any Other Business

The Council noted information from the presidency and the Commission on the following areas:

The Commission presented its package of measures on the free movement of goods.

The Commission presented its Green Paper for the revision of the Community Acquis in the area of consumer protection.

The Commission presented the internal market scoreboard for the second half of 2006.

The presidency updated the Council on progress in negotiation of the shareholder rights directive.

Lunch

Over lunch, there was a discussion of “Competitiveness, Climate Change, and Secure Energy Supplies—a Coherent Approach”. The lunch was attended by Gunter Verheugen, Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry, and Stavros Dimas, Commissioner for the Environment.