Skip to main content

Written Statements

Volume 470: debated on Thursday 10 January 2008

Written Ministerial Statements

Thursday 10 January 2008

Treasury

HMRC Review (Powers, Deterrents and Safeguards)

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is today announcing that it will begin the process of working with interested parties on the development of a taxpayers charter, which will set out both taxpayer rights and responsibilities in a single accessible document. This announcement is made alongside the publication of “Modernising Powers, Deterrents and Safeguards: Safeguards for Taxpayers: Summary of Responses” and reflects the Government’s commitment to ensuring that the tax system is useable and accessible for all taxpayers.

The ongoing HMRC Review of Powers, Deterrents and Safeguards is working to align and modernise the powers and taxpayer safeguards that HMRC inherited. It will provide greater consistency across all taxes and a modern framework of law and practice that will make HMRC more efficient and effective. HMRC has today published three further Modernising Powers, Deterrents and Safeguards consultation documents:

Penalties Reform: The Next Stage;

A New Approach to Compliance Checks: Responses to Consultation and Proposals; and,

Repayments and Debt: Responses to Consultation and Proposals.

These documents have been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses and are available on the HMRC website.

Communities and Local Government

Homes and Communities Agency

I undertook during oral evidence for the Committee stage of the Housing and Regeneration Bill on 13 December 2007 to confirm the delivery responsibilities of the Homes and Communities Agency.

The Homes and Communities Agency will for the first time, bring together land and money to deliver decent, affordable housing and regenerate our communities by creating places where people choose to live. It will play a key role advising Ministers on turning our ambition to deliver 3 million new homes by 2020 into a reality.

Establishing the agency will enable a range of existing regeneration and housing delivery programmes to be brought together under the auspices of a single delivery focused agency. This will give local authorities a clear strategic partner to work with on housing and regeneration work in their area, and will enable better and more effective use of a range of assets, resources and funding streams to respond to the particular housing and regeneration problems in different communities.

Taking account of the role of the agency and consultation responses to “Delivering Housing and Regeneration: Communities England and the Future of Social Housing Regulation”, we have concluded that the agency, reporting to Ministers, will therefore take on the following roles:

Regeneration programmes from English Partnerships, including remediation of brownfield land, facilitating the provision of homes for key workers, the National Coalfields programme and developing its strategic sites programme to facilitate the delivery of increasing numbers of new homes;

Provision of new affordable housing, currently provided through social housing grant from the Housing Corporation;

Delivery responsibilities for the decent homes programmes for the social housing sector from the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) including Arms Length Management Organisations (ALMOs), Large Scale Voluntary Transfers (LSVT), Housing Private Finance Initiative (PFI) and PFI for new supply. This will enable the agency to work closely with local authorities to join up delivery of decent homes with the wider regeneration of communities. Ministers will continue to make final decisions on stock transfers and the establishment of ALMOs;

Transferring programme management responsibility from CLG on housing market renewal facilitating the joining up with other agency programmes, allowing it to work with local authorities to develop multifaceted regeneration programmes that deliver community as well as housing market renewal;

The agency will take on the housing and regeneration delivery functions of CLG in support of the main existing growth areas, including Milton Keynes-South Midlands, London-Stanstead-Cambridge-Peterborough, and Ashford.

Fulfilling its objective of becoming the “Best Delivery Partner” for local authorities, it will also work with local authorities to develop support for new and emerging growth points and will become Government’s main source of advice on the delivery of housing growth. Responsibility for selecting and assessing growth areas will remain with CLG and with Ministers;

Similarly the agency will take on housing and regeneration delivery functions from CLG in the Thames Gateway, including driving forward the implementation of the Thames Gateway delivery plan published in November. The Gateway is the single largest regeneration project in Europe and will provide 160,000 new homes and 225,000 jobs by 2016—making a key contribution to the delivery of the agency’s objectives. The agency will make use of its unrivalled expertise in housing and regeneration and to work with local councils on delivery across the Gateway. Its role will include the management of CLG’s £500million Thames Gateway programme for 2009-11.

Additionally, the Academy for Sustainable Communities will transfer to the agency, as will delivery responsibilities for the following programmes, currently undertaken by CLG:

Mixed Communities

Capital Investment on Homelessness Hostels and Specialist Supported Housing

National Land-Use Database of Previously Developed Land.

This will help provide an holistic approach to housing and regeneration and enable the department to focus on the provision of strategic policy advice and managing cross-Whitehall relationships.

A full summary of responses to the consultation “Delivering Housing and Regeneration: Communities England and the Future of Social Housing Regulation”, and the Government’s response, can be found on the CLG website. Copies are also being placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Defence

Air Surveillance and Control System Basing Study

I am taking this opportunity to provide the House with interim details of the Air Surveillance and Control System (ASACS) Basing Study that commenced in September 2006.

As a result of the Air Combat Service Support Units (ACSSU) and Minor Unit Basing Study, the decision was made to draw down RAF Boulmer by 2012 and relocate some of the ASACS units to RAF Scampton. Following the Communication Hub relocation in 2006 to RAF Leeming instead of RAF Scampton the decision regarding the future basing of ASACS units needed to be reconsidered. This included the proposed future location of all ASACS elements currently based at RAF Boulmer, RAF Kirton-in-Lindsey and RAF Scampton.

During the course of the ASACS Basing Study it became clear that the retention of RAF Boulmer as a core site for the ASACS Hub was the best option in financial and operational terms. Therefore, I have decided that, subject to TU consultation, RAF Boulmer should not draw down in 2012 and should instead remain the ASACS Hub. Service and civilian personnel at RAF Boulmer will be briefed on the progress of the study.

This decision only refers to RAF Boulmer’s future within the ASACS Basing Study. The final outcome of the study, which will include the basing of the remaining ASACS satellite units at RAF Scampton and RAF Kirton-in-Lindsey, is expected shortly.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

“Consultation on Managing Radioactive Waste Safely”

I am today publishing the “Summary and Analysis of Responses to the Consultation on Managing Radioactive Waste Safely; A Framework for Implementing Geological Disposal”. The consultation commenced on 25 June 2007 and closed on 2 November 2007.

The Government view is that the consultation responses indicate support for managing higher activity radioactive waste in the long term through geological disposal, as recommended as the best available option by the independent Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) in July 2006. As set out in their response to CoRWM’s recommendations in October 2006, the Government continue to see geological disposal as the way forward for the long-term management of higher activity radioactive waste.

Furthermore, the responses indicated support for the approach proposed in the consultation document for securing implementation of such disposal, including how a voluntarism or partnership approach and site screening and assessment criteria might be used to identify a facility site.

The Government also acknowledge, in line with CoRWM’s recommendations, that the geological disposal implementation programme needs to be coupled with safe and secure interim storage and that there will be a programme of ongoing research and development for this waste management programme, for which the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) will have primary responsibility.

The consultation responses also provided a number of comments on more detailed aspects of carrying forward the geological disposal implementation programme. All consultation comments will be considered in developing the details of the next stages of implementation. These will be set out in a White Paper to be published later this year.

Copies of the summary and analysis of responses will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses, and are available on Defra’s website at:

www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/radwaste-framework/index.htm

Home Department

The Forensic Science Regulator and the Forensic Science Advisory Council

On 12 July last year I announced the arrangements we had put in hand to establish the post of Forensic Science Regulator to advise the Government and the Criminal Justice System on quality standards in the provision of forensic science; and to set up a Forensic Science Advisory Council to support and advise the regulator.

I am pleased to announce that the regulator has been appointed following an open competition. He is Mr Andrew Rennison, who is currently Director of Intelligence at the Gambling Commission. Mr Rennison will take up the post on 11 February. In the meantime, the role will continue to be filled by a senior official in the Home Office.

I am also pleased to report that the Forensic Science Advisory Council has been established and is operating in support of the interim regulator. The membership of the council is as follows:

Adrian Cory, Interim Regulator (Chair) 1

Dr Michael Goldstein, Chairman of the Council for the Registration of Forensic Practitioners

Dr Jane Beaumont, Director of Accreditation, UKAS

Stan Brown, CEO Forensic Science Northern Ireland

Roger Coe-Salazar, CPS Chief Crown Prosecutor, Kent

ACC Paul Crowther, British Transport Police

Ms Julie Goulding, lay member

His Honour Judge Andrew Goymer

Mohammed Khamisa QC

Professor Julie Mennell, Chair, UK Forensic Science Education Group

Tom Nelson, Director of Forensic Services, Scottish Police Services Authority

Dr Basil Purdue, President-elect, British Association in Forensic Medicine

Brian Rankin, President, Forensic Science Society

Dr Sheila Willis, Chair, Forensic Science Providers’ Group

1 Andrew Rennison from 11 February 2008

Cabinet Office

Families at Risk Review

Today we are publishing “Think Family: Improving the Life Chances of Families at Risk”. This forms the next stage of the “Families at Risk Review” led by the Social Exclusion Task Force and follows on from the publication of “Reaching Out: Think Family” in June 2007.

“Think Family” argues that excellent children’s services, and excellent adults’ services, are not enough in isolation. To transform life chances and break the cycle of disadvantage, services must go further. Today’s report builds on the review’s earlier analytical work by setting out a vision of an integrated system that ‘thinks family’ at every level. The goal is to extend the logic of integration behind “Every Child Matters” beyond children’s services to include adults’ services and promote collaboration and co-ordination around the needs of the family.

There are four key principles that underpin a system that ‘thinks family’. First, there is no ‘wrong door’ to effective support and contact with any service opens a door into a system of joined up support. Secondly, services take a ‘whole family’ approach, responding to clients as family members and supporting parental responsibilities. Thirdly, professionals start with a family’s strengths and build on a family’s capacity to take responsibility for their own lives. Fourthly, the system provides support tailored to need.

The system design is based upon findings from extensive research and consultation with practitioners, local policy makers and families themselves. To take this vision forward DCSF has launched an invitation to local authorities to apply to become one of the £13 million Family Pathfinders set out in “Think Family” and the “Children’s Plan”. The Family Pathfinders will improve service delivery to families at risk through change at all levels of the system; from strategy and governance through to the delivery of front line services. The pathfinders will build on the learning from innovative family-based services such as the Family Intervention Projects. Working alongside the network of local authorities involved in the “Narrowing the Gap” project, these pathfinders will help to generate learning about how local areas can transform outcomes by ‘thinking family’. An additional £3 million will be made available over the next three years for extended Family Pathfinders which will also look in depth at how better forms of support can be built around families in which children are taking on caring responsibilities.

The Family Pathfinders will sit at the heart of a wider process of learning shared between central and local government, practitioners and families themselves to help drive change in every local area.

Copies of the report have been placed in the Library for the reference of Members and are available in the Vote Office.

The report is also available on the Cabinet Office website at: www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/social_exclusion _task_force

Transport

Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation

I have today published the Government’s recommendation to the Office of the Renewable Fuels Agency (RFA) on how the carbon and sustainability reporting mechanism should operate under the RTFO scheme, which will be introduced in April 2008 pursuant to the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligations Order 2007. This follows a public consultation published on 21 June 2007: “Carbon and Sustainability Reporting Within the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation, Requirements and Guidance, Draft Government Recommendation to RTFO Administrator”. I have also published today a summary of responses to the consultation. Copies of these documents have been placed in the Library of both Houses.

The Government are committed to ensuring that the biofuels that are supplied under the RTFO are sustainable and deliver genuine greenhouse gas savings. This reporting mechanism will provide a strong incentive to road transport fuel suppliers to source sustainable biofuels, and is an essential first step towards the development and introduction of mandatory carbon and sustainability standards.

I can confirm that, in the light of the comments received during the consultation exercise, the Government are setting the following targets for key aspects of the biofuel reporting scheme to illustrate the level of performance expected from all road transport fuel suppliers:

Annual target

2008-9

2009-10

2010-11

Percentage of feedstock meeting a qualifying environmental standard

30%

50%

80%

Annual average greenhouse gas saving of biofuel supplied

40%

45%

50%

Data reporting on sustainability characteristics

50%

70%

90%

The Government announced on 21 June 2007 their aim of rewarding biofuels according to their carbon savings from 2010-11 onwards, subject to a number of very important provisos. I can confirm today that the Government will aim to design such a scheme so that it delivers a level of carbon savings consistent with the greenhouse gas saving target for 2010-11. We will consult in due course on this matter.

The Government will keep all of these targets under review in the light of suppliers’ performance in meeting them and other developments.

The Government’s recommendation to the RFA includes a number of detailed changes that have been made in the light of the responses to the consultation. The key changes are set out in the summary of responses document.

Further developments in this area will be affected by the forthcoming EU Directives on Renewable Energy and Fuel Quality. The UK will continue to work closely with the European Commission and other member states to ensure that a robust sustainability framework for biofuels underpins both EU and UK biofuel targets.

It is expected that the RFA will consider the Government’s recommendation and publish the final reporting requirements shortly.

Further information is available from the Departmental website at:

http://www.dft.gov.uk/roads/RTFO