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Written Statements

Volume 461: debated on Wednesday 6 June 2007

Written Ministerial Statements

Wednesday 6 June 2007

Communities and Local Government

Ordnance Survey (Performance Targets 2007-08)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
(Angela E. Smith)

The following performance targets have been set for Ordnance Survey in 2007-08:

Ordnance Survey will report externally against a set of Agency Performance Monitors (APMs) as required of all Executives Agencies in Government:

1. To achieve an operating profit before exceptional items, interest and dividends of £14.6 million for the financial year 1 April 2007 to 31 March 2008.

2. Some 99.6 per cent. of significant real-world features are represented in the database within six months of completion.

3. To continuously improve the timeliness of the supply of our data to customers with a success rate not lower than 97 per cent.

4. To reduce carbon emissions from Ordnance Survey Headquarters by 29 per cent. against the base year of 2000-01 by March 2008.

5. To achieve an improvement of 5 per cent. in business on planned 2006-07 baseline transaction levels (for example, a rise from 90,301 to 94,816 transactions) through our OS MasterMap Service and Consumer e-commerce Platform.

These targets reflect Ordnance Survey’s continuing commitment to customers, improved value for money for all of its stakeholders and commitment to Government policies.

Defence

Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft

I am pleased to announce today that the Ministry of Defence has decided to proceed towards financial and contractual close of the Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA) project PFI deal. The FSTA project is an innovative programme intended to provide future air-to-air refuelling and strategic air transport capability, through a service based contract funded under the private finance initiative. It will provide the Royal Air Force with a modern capability to replace our VC10 and TriStar aircraft.

In February 2005, the then Secretary of State for Defence announced that the Government intended to enter into preferred bidder negotiations with AirTanker Ltd. Extensive evaluation of the final bid has demonstrated that PFI offers a cost effective solution to this requirement and we are now proceeding towards financial and contractual close of the deal with AirTanker Ltd. We expect AirTanker Ltd. to now begin the fund raising process.

I should stress that FSTA remains a complex and challenging PFI programme. Contract signature is dependent upon the outcome of the PFI fund raising process. Nevertheless, I believe this announcement is good news for our armed forces, for the taxpayer, for AirTanker, and for UK industry.

Health

NHS Financial Performance (Quarter 4 2006-07)

Today, my Department is publishing the National Health Service financial report for the fourth quarter of 2006-07. This report shows that, on the basis of unaudited figures, the NHS as a whole is reporting a net surplus for the year of £510 million, having made very strong progress against each of the financial objectives we set for the financial year.

This is a remarkable transformation from the £547 million audited net deficit in 2005-06, and bears witness to the hard work of NHS staff right across the country in taking the tough decisions needed to deliver savings, increase the efficiency of working practices and reduce deficits, while maintaining patient care and continuing to reduce waiting times.

The introduction of a stronger, fairer and more transparent system, coupled with a renewed emphasis on performance management, has exposed many underlying financial problems in the system, allowing the NHS to end the 2006-07 year with its strongest financial results for many years, and providing a firm and sustainable financial position for 2007-08 and beyond.

The report has been placed in the Library and copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office.

Home Department

Immigration Law

Today I have launched a consultation paper on simplifying immigration and citizenship law. The aim of this initial consultation paper is to seek a range of views to inform a fundamental overhaul of the legal framework within which the Border and Immigration Agency operates.

Over recent months we have outlined our plans to reform our immigration system. The object of this paper is to begin the process of simplifying the body of different immigration laws built up over the last few decades.

The new legal framework will be important to the transformation of the Border and Immigration Agency, and to the achievement of its strategic objectives.

Copies of the consultation paper have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The document is also available on the Border and Immigration Agency's website at:

http://www.bia.homeoffice.gov.uk/lawandpolicy/consultationdocuments/currentconsultations

Northern Ireland

Oversight Commissioner's Report

I have today laid before this House a copy of the Oversight Commissioner’s first statutory report for the year 2007 which was published on 31 May 2007, in accordance with Section 68(4)(a) of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000.

This is the final report of the office of the Policing Oversight Commissioner and the 10th report compiled by Al Hutchinson as Oversight Commissioner and the 19th in the series of oversight reports published since 2001. This final report of the Oversight Commissioner is a comprehensive assessment of the implementation of the Patten recommendations and is a fitting record of the invaluable work of the Policing Oversight Commissioner and his team of evaluators.

Work and Pensions

Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council

The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council was held on 30 May in Brussels. The Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Mrs. McGuire), the Minister with responsibility for disabled people, represented the UK. Health and Consumer Affairs issues were taken on 31 May.

For the first item, the Council endorsed a joint Social Protection Committee and Employment Committee opinion on active ageing. The Employment Committee Chair said the aim was to give member states practical guidance reflecting the successful initiatives that were being taken across the EU to boost the employment rates of older people.

The Council adopted a resolution on a new EU strategy on health and safety at work. The Commission said that the previous strategy had achieved an increase in productivity and a 17 per cent. reduction in accidents in the EU15, but that the current levels of accidents and illness were still too high. The UK said an important element of achieving a good health and safety record, was ensuring that employers and workers were focused on the sensible, practical management of health and safety risks, rather than getting tied up in pointless bureaucracy, and welcomed the clear link between good health and safety management and the achievement of the Lisbon employment agenda.

The Council agreed a partial general approach on two chapters of the Implementing Regulation for Regulation 883/04, providing for the co-ordination of social security systems, which included sickness and health care benefits and the provisions for reimbursing healthcare costs. It agreed an explanatory note, instigated by the UK, saying final agreement on the border health care aspects could not be given until the Commission proposals on health services had been considered. The Council also agreed a general approach on the 2006 package of miscellaneous amendments to the regulation.

On the Portability of Supplementary Pensions Directive, the Netherlands said the Dutch Parliament had called for the directive to be re-examined, as it felt that the text no longer met its aim of increasing worker mobility due to the narrowing of its scope and the numerous exemptions. The presidency suggested the Portuguese might take up the dossier, but the next step was the imminent First Reading Opinion of the European Parliament.

A lunchtime discussion was held on ‘Migration and Access to the Labour Market’. After a presentation by Commissioner Frattini on the Commission’s recent proposals, a number of Ministers spoke about their own different national situations and problems. All agreed these were major issues that the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council should return to.

The Council adopted conclusions on the importance of family-friendly policies, an Alliance for Families and on the Beijing indicators on education and training. The presidency’s Alliance for Families initiative was broadly welcomed, though most, including the UK, said it should not duplicate existing processes.

The Social Protection Committee Chair presented the outcomes of the Social Services of General Interest consultation. The Social Partners wanted a legal framework, though there was broad recognition of the important role the Open Method of Coordination could also play, and the Commission said it would bring forward a Communication in November.

Portugal outlined its priorities on employment and social policy for the forthcoming Portuguese presidency starting in July, which would be evaluating the European Employment Strategy in its 10th anniversary year, renewing the European Social Model with particular attention to pensions, poverty and social exclusion. It also intended to take stock of the progress made in combating discrimination. For the December Council it stated that Flexicurity would be a key issue.