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Written Statements

Volume 470: debated on Wednesday 23 January 2008

Written Ministerial Statements

Wednesday 23 January 2008

Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform

Renewable Energy

The Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform
(Mr. John Hutton)

I am publishing today the Government’s plans for developing a strategy to increase renewable energy use in the UK.

The European Commission today published its proposal for a directive on renewable energy.

The draft directive provides the framework for achieving the EU’s agreed target of securing 20 per cent. of all its energy from renewable sources by 2020. In particular, it proposes contributions from the UK and other member states towards this goal. As part of the 20 per cent. renewable energy target, each member state is required to achieve a 10 per cent. share for renewable energy in road transport fuels, so long as sustainability conditions are met. Several other important proposals to meet EU climate and energy objectives have also been published today: there are also proposals for the future of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS); member state targets for greenhouse gas emissions; and a Commission Communication and draft directive on Carbon Capture and Storage.

The Government welcome the Commission’s proposals as a good starting point for discussion in the Council. The Commission has proposed that 15 per cent. of all the UK’s energy—covering the electricity, heat, and transport sectors—should come from renewables by 2020. This would be a very challenging target, as our existing share is less than 2 per cent. and lower than that of most other member states.

The UK is completely committed to meeting our share which will be decided, along with other member states’ shares, in negotiations over the coming months. Renewables will play an increasingly important part in meeting our energy and climate change objectives, alongside other low carbon technologies and our policies to increase energy efficiency. A successful EU Emissions Trading Scheme will be vital in meeting these objectives.

It is essential that there is an overall sustainable approach to meeting biofuels and other renewable energy targets—domestically and in the EU. These targets must not be allowed to trigger the unsustainable cultivation of biomass and biofuels. We shall we pressing for robust consideration of the sustainability impacts of how member states meet their targets.

We are already putting in place measures to increase renewable energy supplies, notably:

The strengthening of the renewables obligation on electricity suppliers under the Energy Bill now before Parliament; as a result, we expect to see the electricity generated by RO eligible renewable sources triple between now and 2015.

The introduction, from April, of the renewable transport fuel obligation, which will require suppliers to include 5 per cent. of renewables in their fuel mix by 2010-11. We intend to increase the level after 2010-11 but only if sustainability and other criteria are met.

However, further measures will be necessary. I published yesterday the terms of reference for the Severn tidal power feasibility study, which I announced in September last year. We will shortly publish a call for evidence on heat. I plan a public consultation in the summer on the options for meeting our share of the EU 2020 renewable energy target. And we will publish our renewable energy strategy in the spring of next year, once the EU directive is passed and the UK’s contribution is decided.

Cost-effectiveness will be a key consideration in assessing further measures, in the interests of consumers and the wider economy. Close inter-departmental co-operation will be necessary in working up the options. And where the options touch on devolved matters, we will work together with the devolved Administrations.

A paper on the UK renewable energy strategy and the EU renewable energy directive has been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses and published on the BERR website. This includes further details of our plans for developing a more ambitious renewable energy strategy.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

New Strategic Framework

Since taking office in June, my ministerial team has been working with Foreign and Commonwealth Office staff, other Whitehall Departments and other stakeholders to bring a sharper and more strategic focus to the work of the FCO. I should like to inform the House of the outcome.

We considered the wider context in which the FCO, and the UK, are now operating: the changes driven by globalisation; the interdependence of foreign and domestic policy; the growing diversity of international actors; and hence the need for a modern Foreign Ministry to be constantly reassessing where and how it can make the most valuable contribution.

Based on this assessment, I have approved a new Strategic Framework to guide the work of the FCO in future. This has three elements, reflecting the three main roles of the FCO:

i) Providing a flexible global network serving the Government as a whole.

In addition to delivering our new policy goals and essential services, our posts abroad will continue to support the rest of Whitehall in delivering Home Departments’ own international priorities.

ii) Delivering essential services to the British public and business:

Our worldwide consular operation which provides assistance to UK citizens living, working or travelling abroad; UK Trade and Investment, which works to help UK businesses and exporters and attract inward investment to the UK; and our worldwide visa operation, currently carried out by UKvisas, which will be incorporated into the new UK Border Agency later this year.

iii) Shaping and delivering HMG’s foreign policy.

We have identified four new policy priorities on which the FCO will focus, on which I briefed the House on 8 January: countering terrorism and proliferation; reducing and preventing conflict; promoting a low carbon, high growth global economy; and developing effective international institutions, especially the UN and EU.

I intend to put more of the FCO’s overall resources into these new priorities: a closer alignment of resources and priorities will enable the FCO to deliver better for Britain and HMG.

So we will be increasing substantially the overall level of resources the FCO puts into counter-terrorism and counter-proliferation; climate change; Afghanistan and other conflict regions; and key international institutions. All these areas will receive additional staff and money.

We have also decided that we should adapt the FCO’s overseas network of posts to align it more closely with our own priorities and those of HMG as a whole. So we will be shifting a proportion of our diplomatic staff from Europe and the Americas to Asia, the Middle East and other parts of the world, while continuing to sustain our global flexibility and reach.

As I told the House on 8 January, we will continue to manage the FCO’s overseas network to reflect changing demands and challenges. We will ensure that our resources are aligned with our priorities and that the UK has a cost-effective and flexible network of overseas representation around the world.

In order to put more resources into these new priority areas and to sharpen our strategic focus, it is necessary to reduce the resources the FCO puts into certain other issues, notably where other Whitehall Departments in London are better placed to direct HMG’s international priorities, in particular in the areas of sustainable development, science and innovation, and crime and drugs.

Our ambassadors will however remain heavily engaged on all these issues in those countries where they are of particular importance to Britain: for example, the fight against drugs in Colombia and against crime in Jamaica. Our posts overseas will continue to operate as a base for all Whitehall Departments on which they can put their own staff and resources to deliver their own priorities in the countries concerned. Our ambassadors will continue to offer advice to Departments and their local representatives, and act locally on their behalf wherever needed.

This new Strategic Framework will replace the FCO’s ten existing Strategic Priorities. This is in line with the view expressed by the Foreign Affairs Committee in their response to our 2006-07 departmental White Paper that “ten strategic priorities is too many” and that they should be “simplified and reduced in number”. We will be taking forward the detailed planning and implementation over the next few months, inside the FCO and with other Government Departments.

I believe that every organisation, including every Government Department, should regularly reassess its own aims and priorities. Successful organisations stay focused on the biggest issues on which they can make the biggest difference, and they regularly readjust that focus as circumstances and priorities change. That is what we have sought to do for the FCO through this new Strategic Framework.


Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill

I am placing in the library a copy of a letter sent to the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee in response to the report from the Committee published on 22 November 2007 in relation to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill.


Her Majesty's Courts Service

The Lord Chief Justice and I are today issuing the following joint statement:

We have been exploring the most appropriate arrangements for the future operation of HMCS following the creation of the Ministry of Justice. Following an open and constructive consideration of a number of possible models, we have agreed the main principles of a partnership between the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice in relation to the governance, financing and operation of HMCS. We hope that the steps necessary to launch a new model for HMCS, based on these principles, will be complete early in the new financial year.

The courts are by their nature a shared endeavour between the judiciary, who are responsible for the judicial function to deliver justice independently, and the Government, who have overall responsibility for the justice system within the framework and resources set by Parliament. Within this overall structure the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice have specific, but different, roles. These were described in part in the Concordat finalised in January 2004 between our predecessors as Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice.

Our recent discussions have built upon this work.

The new arrangements for HMCS will structurally embed the spirit and principle of partnership that already exists. The detailed structure of the partnership and its governance will be set out in a framework document for HMCS, which will be laid before both Houses when it is finalised, together with the consequential amendments to the Concordat.

While we shall not be intervening in the day-to-day operational decision-making of HMCS, we will jointly agree:

the aims and objectives for HMCS; and

the priorities for, and division of, funding within HMCS.

The main principles of this new and unique partnership (which will take the form of an agency) are that:

The leadership and broad direction of HMCS will be in the hands of a new board of 11 members that will hold HMCS (the chief executive and the executive team) to account for the delivery of the jointly agreed aims and objectives. It will be chaired by an independent non-executive chair who will be neither a judge nor a civil servant and who will have a key role to facilitate the working of the partnership;

The other members of the board will be three judicial representatives, a representative of the Ministry of Justice, two non-executive directors and four executive directors (the chief executive of HMCS, its finance director and two others);

The chief executive will have day-to-day responsibility for the running of HMCS. He will be the HMCS accounting officer, via the permanent secretary. The chief executive will work under the general direction set by the board and will be held by it to account for the delivery of the efficient and effective operation of the courts in accordance with the framework document, the budget and plans we shall have agreed;

A joint duty for all HMCS staff to the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice for the effective and efficient operation of the courts; the staff will continue to be line-managed within HMCS;

An open and transparent means of settling the budget for HMCS that includes greater judicial engagement in the resourcing of the courts through the HMCS board. The process will include:

the HMCS board having responsibilities for considering and approving HMCS resource bids and for developing the budget and plans for the operation of the courts; and

greater clarity in the role of the Lord Chief Justice when representing the views of the judiciary on the provision and allocation of resources that will enable him to communicate the views of the judiciary to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as well as the Lord Chancellor, when the Government are settling spending review negotiations.

A clearer relationship between HMCS and the judiciary, reflecting the new partnership model, operating not only at the centre but also at regional, area, and local level;

A joint examination of how we can improve performance and efficiency across all aspects of the operation of the courts, including the contribution the judiciary may properly make to that while respecting their independence as a body and in respect of individual decisions;

Specific provision will be made in the framework document for arrangements in relation to the court estate, IT, HR and policy issues.

We will be working out the detail of these new arrangements over the coming weeks, that will be reflected in the recruitment of the appointments necessary to launch the new partnership.

Leader of the House

Baker Review

I announced in my written ministerial statement on Wednesday 16 January 2008, Official Report, column 32WS, volume 470, that the Prime Minister had asked Sir John Baker CBE to undertake a review of the mechanism for determining the pay and pensions for Members of Parliament which does not involve MPs voting on their own pay and pensions; and to report to him by May 2008. The terms of reference are as follows:

Review of the mechanism for determining the pay and pensions for Members of Parliament.

to examine options and make recommendations for a mechanism for independently determining the pay and pensions of Members of Parliament which does not involve MPs voting on their own pay; the appropriate comparator; and the frequency with which reviews of the use of the comparator take place;

to ensure that the independent mechanism takes account of the Government's policy on public sector pay and its target for inflation and;

to have regard to the need for any independent mechanism to maintain the support and trust of the public and Members of Parliament.

The review should seek to:

examine comparable international mechanisms and the resulting experience;

address the constitutional framework alongside legal and legislative considerations;

consider the range of evidence that should be considered by the recommended independent mechanism in determining an appropriate comparator;

consider the membership and remit of any independent body that may be part of the pay setting process;

give due consideration to consistency with other public service wage setting mechanisms and wage settlements across the public service and;

outline a recommended timetable for transition to any new system.