Written Ministerial Statements
Monday 7 January 2008
Communities and Local Government
‘Call In' Directions
I am today publishing a consultation “Review of ‘Call In’ Directions” which sets out proposals aimed at reducing the number of planning applications automatically referred to Government for consideration of whether they should be ‘called in’ for ministerial decision. In 2006-07, less than 5 per cent. of applications referred were ultimately called in, and we consider that there are some unnecessary burdens placed on local planning authorities and Government offices under the current regime.
It will, of course, still be open to individuals or organisations to request that any application be considered for ‘call in’ by approaching the regional Government office in the first instance.
The consultation documentation and further details about how to respond are available on the Department’s website at:
Copies of the consultation document have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
Culture, Media and Sport
Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts ) Bill
Today I am publishing and laying before Parliament a draft of the Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny. The Bill will help to ensure the security of the nation’s most important cultural property in the event of armed conflict and will send a signal to the international community that the UK takes seriously its obligations under international humanitarian law to respect and safeguard the cultural property of other nations.
The Bill is required to enable the UK to ratify the 1954 Hague convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (The Hague Convention) and accede to its two protocols (1954 and 1999). The convention, adopted following the massive destruction that took place during the second world war, provides a system to protect cultural property from the effects of international and domestic armed conflict. Parties to the convention are required to respect cultural property situated within the territory of other parties by not attacking it, and to respect cultural property within their own territory by not using it for purposes which are likely to expose it to destruction or damage in the event of armed conflict.
The Government welcome any comments on the draft Bill. Copies of the Bill will be available to Members from the Vote Office.
Iraq (Reserve Forces)
With the expiry of the call-out order made last January, I am reporting that a new order has been made under section 54 of the Reserve Forces Act 1996 so that reservists may continue to be called out into service to support operations in Iraq. The new order is valid for 12 months.
Some 270 reservists are currently mobilised and deployed to support operations in Iraq. We are very appreciative of the continuing support and commitment shown by both reservists and their employers.
Crown Agents Holding and Realisations Board
The Crown Agents Holding and Realisations Board (CAHRB) was established by the Crown Agents Act 1979 to separate the assets and liabilities of the realisation account dealing with the 1974 losses of the unincorporated Crown Agents from the business of the newly incorporated Crown Agents for Overseas Governments and Administrations (which since 1996 has been successfully operating under the Crown Agents Foundation).
I thank the chairman of CAHRB, David Probert, CBE and Peter Berry the former chief executive and chairman of Crown Agents for carrying on the work of CAHRB in recent years.
CAHRB’s 2006 accounts were reported to the House of Commons by the National Audit Office on 13 June 2007. The summary of the realisation account in these accounts shows that CAHRB has recovered and repaid £38 million of the £175 million which was provided by the Government against the losses incurred in 1974 by the unincorporated Crown Agents.
There are now no further significant realisations likely to be made. I have therefore concluded, with the agreement of CAHRB, that the responsibilities of the board for realising assets and discharging liabilities have been substantially completed and that there is no longer a need to have a statutory body for this work. I therefore propose to make an order under the Crown Agents Act 1979 to wind up CAHRB as at 31 March 2008; the few remaining assets and liabilities will transfer to DFID. Once accounts for the final accounting year have been compiled and audited the board will be dissolved.
Court Fees (Public Law Family Proceedings)
On 19 December 2007, the Ministry of Justice published a Consultation Paper, which sets out proposals to increase court fees paid by public authorities in child care and adoption proceedings to reflect the full cost of the process.
The Consultation Paper sets out the need to transfer responsibility for meeting the full cost of these court proceedings from Her Majesty’s Courts Service to the authorities that initiate the cases. This reflects the Government’s general fee-charging policy, which is intended to provide greater visibility, of and accountability for, the cost of providing services.
Specifically, the proposals in the consultation would:
Increase fees for child care proceedings to reflect the average cost of over £4,000, and introduce a simple incremental payment system so less complex cases requiring fewer hearings would pay less;
Increase adoption fees paid by public authorities to reflect the full cost of around £400.
These proposals will only affect fees paid by public bodies and not individuals. Applications by parents in care and adoption proceedings will remain unchanged.
Copies of the Consultation Paper have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses and can be obtained free on the Ministry’s website at the following web address: www.justice.gov.uk/publications/consultations.htm
The closing date for consultation is 11 March 2008.