Skip to main content

Written Statements

Volume 483: debated on Tuesday 18 November 2008

Written Ministerial Statements

Tuesday 18 November 2008

Treasury

Bank Recapitalisation Scheme

I set out in my statements to Parliament on 8 October, Official Report, columns 277-280 and 13 October, Official Report, column 539, the details of the Government’s recapitalisation scheme. All UK incorporated banks—including UK subsidiaries of foreign institutions—with substantial business in the UK, and building societies, are eligible to apply for the scheme. To date, RBS Group plc and—subject to their merger proceeding—Lloyds TSB plc and HBOS Group plc have announced the terms on which they are participating. Those terms are set out in detail in the placing and open offer agreements, and in the preference share subscription agreements. I have today arranged for final, signed versions of the agreements to be placed in the Libraries of both Houses of Parliament.

I now set out the detail of dealing with future applications to the scheme from those banks which are currently raising capital—either by an agreement with HM Treasury or otherwise—and which, for whatever reason, may seek to negotiate a substantively new proposal or new agreement with HM Treasury about the terms of any recapitalisation. Detailed terms of participation would remain a matter for discussion with the board of the institution concerned, taking proper account of prevailing market conditions, but HM Treasury would expect to apply the following general principles:

The objective of the recapitalisation scheme is to ensure that each eligible institution has sufficient capital to sustain confidence in the institution. Institutions should therefore have a sufficient buffer of capital above the minimum requirement both to absorb losses that might ensue from a downturn and to continue lending on normal commercial criteria. In assessing any proposals in relation to eligible institutions, HM Treasury will continue to focus on three key objectives:

maintaining financial stability;

safeguarding the interests of taxpayers; and

protecting depositors and consumers.

In providing capital to any eligible institution, HM Treasury, on the advice of the Bank of England and Financial Services Authority, would need to be satisfied that these three objectives were met.

There is no automatic right of access to the recapitalisation scheme. At minimum HM Treasury would expect the following high-level conditions to be met before capital could be offered to any eligible institution:

the institution must have a plan to meet an appropriate level of capitalisation, as determined by the FSA. (Information about the FSA approach is set out in its statement of 14 November 2008). It is a matter for the institutions concerned to disclose to the market their capital requirement;

the institution must have a sustainable business model and delivery plan;

the institution’s funding profile, sources and mix must be clear, broad-based and sustainable; and the senior management team must be credible, with demonstrable ability to deliver the business plan.

If the Government are to provide capital, the issue will carry terms and conditions that appropriately reflect the financial commitment made by the taxpayer, including in relation to dividend policy, remuneration, lending policy and wider public policy issues.

To the extent that HM Treasury is asked to subscribe for, or underwrite, an offering for ordinary equity shares, the price would be at a discount to either the market price prevailing at the time of the transaction or, if applicable, the placing price agreed on 13 October, whichever is lower. The percentage discount would not be less than the percentage discounts applied in transactions already announced.

To the extent that HM Treasury is asked to subscribe for preference shares or other tier 1 instruments, the appropriate coupon will be based on prevailing market conditions, with due regard given to the rate at which eligible institutions have announced the issue of such instruments most recently.

With respect to fees, HM Treasury would charge an appropriate level of fees for any underwriting commitments, again paying due regard to the fees paid in recent transactions involving eligible institutions.

Any transaction would, of course, be subject to the necessary regulatory and legal clearances, and would need to comply with the European Commission’s decision of 13 October 2008 authorising the recapitalisation scheme under EU state aid rules.

Any securities acquired by HM Treasury under the recapitalisation scheme will be managed on a commercial basis by UK Financial Investments Ltd (UKFI). Details about UKFI are set out in my letter to the Chairman of the Treasury Select Committee of 3 November, which is available in the Libraries of both Houses of Parliament.

Children, Schools and Families

Children's Trusts

In the “Children’s Plan”, which I presented to Parliament in December 2007, the Government set out their ambition to make this country the best place in the world for young people to grow up. As part of this we committed to strengthening the links between schools, health and other children’s services in every area through children’s trusts, so that together they can tackle all the barriers to the learning, health and happiness of every child.

Today I am publishing statutory guidance which:

clarifies what a children’s trust is, what it does and how it relates to other local partnerships;

discusses in more detail the vision and priorities in the children’s plan as they relate to children’s trusts and the five every child matters outcomes;

identifies the challenges that now need to be addressed; and

offers guidance on how the priorities in the children’s plan should be taken forward across the whole children’s trust.

The guidance also confirms the Government’s intention to legislate to:

extend the number of relevant partners under a duty to co-operate to include schools—including academies—sixth form and FE colleges, and Job Centre Plus;

make the children’s trust board a statutory body; and

give the board responsibility for producing the children and young people’s plan, which will then be ‘owned’ by the full children’s trust partnership.

The children’s plan set out a vision in which local authorities, schools, the health service and other local providers work together and support each other, both in setting the direction and in driving delivery. The proposals announced today, taken together, give us a framework that will help make this vision a reality.

CAMHS Review

The Secretary of State for Health and I today welcome the publication of the final report of the independent review of child and adolescent mental health services. We would like to thank the CAMHS external review group for their report and recommendations. In particular, we would like to thank Jo Davidson, the chair and group director of children and young people's services at Gloucestershire county council and Dr. Bob Jezzard, the vice-chair.

This has been a challenging review. Children’s mental health is an area where there are strong views and perspectives. The external review group should, therefore, take great credit for having produced such a coherent and evidence-based report, which sets out a clear vision for how we can all take responsibility for promoting children’s mental health and psychological well-being, alongside clear recommendations for how we can best achieve the step change in the quality and consistency of services at all levels.

We asked the chair and vice-chair to investigate:

the progress that has been made, since the launch of standard 9 of the children’s national service framework and the publication of “Every Child Matters” in 2004, in delivering services to meet the educational, health and social care needs of children and young people at risk of and experiencing mental health problems, including those with complex, severe and persistent needs; and

the practical solutions that can be used by those developing policy and delivering, managing and commissioning services to address current challenges and deliver better outcomes for children and young people with mental health problems, and how these solutions can be monitored.

We welcome the fact that the review carried out its task in such a comprehensive manner, undertaking an intensive programme of investigation, including a national call for evidence and extensive consultation with children, young people and their families throughout the process. The fact that the review’s recommendations respond to the concerns of users of these vital services gives its report added weight and importance.

We agree with the review’s analysis that whilst considerable improvements have been made to the support and services delivered in this area, there is still a great deal of change that needs to take place at all levels of the system to support the delivery of integrated, child and family-focused mental health and psychological well-being services that are organised around children and young people’s needs.

The review’s report identifies the important changes that are required if we are to see real improvements in children’s mental health and psychological well-being. The review sets out a clear and ambitious vision of what this change would look like for children, young people and their families accessing universal, targeted and specialist services, highlighting the importance of:

everyone having a good understanding of what mental health and psychological well-being is, how they can promote resilience in children and young people and where children, young people and their families can go if they need more information and help;

children’s mental health and psychological well-being services being viewed and working as a single service that is organised around children, young people and their families’ needs, with staff working within these services having a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities as well as those of others;

staff within universal services being trained and supported to provide effective mental health promotion, prevention and early intervention work and where necessary having the knowledge and skills that are needed to refer children and young people swiftly through to specialist services; and

staff within specialist services to have an appropriate range of skills and competences so that they can deliver support that is easy to access, readily available and based on the best evidence of what works.

The review makes 20 challenging recommendations to Government across all aspects of children’s mental health and psychological well-being services. The Secretary of State for Health and I are delighted to be able to demonstrate our commitment to the immediate implementation of a number of these recommendations. In particular:

we will set up a National Advisory Council for children’s mental health and psychological well- being. In line with the review’s recommendations, the council will act as a champion for children’s mental health and psychological well-being issues, advise Government on implementing the recommendations that have been set out in the review’s report, and hold Government to account on our successful delivery. We are delighted that Dame Jo Williams, former chief executive of Mencap has agreed to chair the review and Dr Lesley Hewson, consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist and director of CAMHS, Bradford District Care Trust, to act as vice-chair; and

we will improve support for practitioners delivering services for children and young people and drive culture change and consistency at national, regional and local levels, we will develop a National Support Programme. This will build on the work of the national CAMHS support service and field forces working in this area. The National Support Programme will co-ordinate these organisations to give everyone working in this area the support they need to achieve the aims of the CAMHS review.

We are committed to: taking forward key recommendations within the report on improving access for children, young people and their families to mental health support through universal services; improving the access, quality and impact of mental health services for vulnerable children and young people; and ensuring that parents and carers have access to high quality advice and support when they are concerned about their children’s mental health.

For example, legislation to strengthen Children’s Trusts is already in train. Revised statutory guidance will highlight that Children’s Trusts should consider the mental health and psychological well-being needs of children and young people in their area as part of their wider joint strategic needs assessment and respond to this through effective joint-working between primary care trusts, local authorities and other strategic partners.

Today we want to further demonstrate our commitment by announcing:

the roll-out of phase two of the targeted mental health support pathfinder programme (TaMHS) in an additional 55 local authority areas. This will enable a further 100 to 150 secondary schools and their feeder primary schools to deliver additional support in school to promote all children’s psychological well-being and additional help in and through the school for those children and their families at risk of problems. It will also provide additional funding for schools to forge closer working links with specialist CAMHS. Children will benefit from schools’ increased ability to identify risks to mental health at an early stage and ensure that they receive prompt access to the help and support that they need;

additional funding for local authorities already delivering the targeted mental health in schools pathfinder, so that they can build on their work in pupil referral units and special schools in order to meet the needs of this very vulnerable group of children and young people; and

additional funding for organisations who are delivering vital telephone helpline support for parents who are concerned about their children’s mental health.

We are pleased to accept most of the review’s recommendations in principle, with a view to implementing these as soon as is practical. Overall, we share the review’s conclusions on the need to promote greater consistency in access, quality and impact of children’s mental health services. In order to deliver these improvements, we identify four priority areas to be addressed by the National Support Programme and National Advisory Council. These are:

awareness of and access to services through the provision of local information in every area that clearly sets out the support that children, young people and their families can expect to receive in their local area;

the diffuse leadership and responsibility for children’s mental health and psychological well-being that currently exists at a national, regional and local level, for example through the strengthening of Children’s Trusts;

waiting times, where we are aware of the significant negative impact that having to wait a long time to receive treatment can have on children and young people’s recovery, so look to the national support programme to drive further improvements in this area; and

transitions to adult services, where we agree with the review that urgent work is required to identify, understand and overcome the barriers to smooth transitions between mental health services for young people and services for adults.

We will give further consideration to the remaining six recommendations from the review in conjunction with the National Advisory Council in order to develop an appropriate response and effective solutions that reflect local and national priorities.

The Secretary of State for Health and I have set out our initial response to each of the review’s 20 recommendations in a summary document that has been made available on the DH and DCSF websites and in the Libraries of both Houses of Parliament.

Communities and Local Government

Rough Sleeping Strategy

The Government are today publishing a new rough sleeping strategy “No one left out—communities ending rough sleeping”. Copies have been placed in the Library of the House.

Ten years ago, the Government set out an ambitious plan to cut rough sleeping by two thirds. Thanks to the determination of our partners in local authorities, the voluntary sector and other agencies dealing with the homeless, we achieved that goal several years ago. There have been significant and sustained reductions in the number of people who sleep rough on the streets.

Our success in tackling rough sleeping so far is something in which we lead the world and of which this country can be proud, but we are not complacent. Ten years on from our first strategy, we are determined to make further progress. Our vision is to end rough sleeping once and for all. And we know that many of our partners share this determination and we will work across Government to make progress.

This new strategy signals our intent to work with our partners to end rough sleeping once and for all by 2012. To make this happen we want to make sure that in every part of the country people get the help they need, so no one has to sleep rough. Services will act promptly to prevent rough sleeping from occurring in the first place, or to bring people in from the streets as quickly as possible. People who have slept rough will be supported to improve their health, consider employment options and rebuild their lives.

After a decade of progress we have learnt from our experiences, and are more confident and determined than ever that we can make progress towards this goal, building on the commitment, innovation and energy of our partners across Government, in local authorities, the third sector and communities. The strategy sets out a fifteen point action plan for the next four years. The tougher economic climate may bring new pressures and challenges, but I am confident that the strategy prepares us well for the future. The Government is investing £200 million to prevent homelessness and tackle rough sleeping.

This new strategy will help us make the final push, ending rough sleeping once and for all.

Local Government

On 8 May 2008 we introduced through the Standards Committee (England) Regulations 2008 (SI 2008/1085) the reformed conduct regime for local authority members, in which responsibility for standards of conduct and dealing with allegations of misconduct by members is largely devolved to each council’s independently chaired standards committee. In this regime the Standards Board for England has the role of a strategic regulator, and only the most serious cases of misconduct by members are to be investigated by the Standards Board and determined by case tribunals of the Adjudication Panel for England, established under the Local Government Act 2000.

Following extensive consultation, including with the Local Government Association, local authorities, practitioners, and the Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council, I have today laid before the House the Case Tribunals (England) Regulations 2008, which complement the Standards Committee (England) Regulations 2008 and make provision about the sanctions available to a case tribunal of the Adjudication Panel.

In particular, these regulations ensure that from 12 December 2008 case tribunals will have the power to censure a member, require them to apologise, attend training, or enter into a process of conciliation. These sanctions are currently available only to councils’ standards committees. Making these sanctions available to case tribunals will allow them to deal proportionately with, for example, a case which, although referred to the tribunal on the grounds that it is very serious, the tribunal concludes is a less serious matter.

The regulations also make provision about certain administrative procedures to be followed in relation to cases before the Adjudication Panel and its case tribunals.

These regulations will help ensure that the reformed conduct regime is fair, transparent and efficient.

We intend to complete the reformed conduct regime in January 2009 by making, following consultation, further regulations which will allow councils to establish joint standards committees, and to enable the Standards Board to suspend, in certain circumstances where the board considers this to be in the public interest, a council’s standards committee’s powers to deal with misconduct allegations.

Defence

In-patient Mental Health Care

I wish to inform the House of the outcome of a competitive exercise for the provision of in-patient mental health care for our serving armed forces personnel.

The Ministry of Defence recognises mental illnesses as potentially serious and disabling conditions, but most can be successfully treated. Our mental health services are configured to provide community-based mental health care in line with the guidelines and standards set by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence and the National Service Frameworks.

We do this primarily by supporting our GPs with specialist out-patient assessment and treatment at our military regional departments of community mental health centres sited in military bases. Care is provided by either military mental health care professionals or civilians employed by the MOD. This means that serving personnel usually remain with their units and receive out-patient care in a military environment.

In-patient care may be required in a small number of cases. Where this is necessary, it is provided regionally in specialised psychiatric units under a contractual arrangement. Since 2003 this contract has been with the Priory Group. The contract with the Priory Group has worked very well and was extended for two years. In line with our usual commercial practice a competitive tendering exercise has now been conducted in order to place a new contract. I am now in a position to announce the outcome of that competition.

The evaluation process produced a clear winner—we have awarded the contract to the South Staffordshire and Shropshire Foundation Trust who offered a powerful grouping of NHS providers to deliver a nationwide service.

The South Staffordshire and Shropshire Foundation Trust proposal offers a bespoke admission and treatment service based upon the needs of the MOD and of the individual patient. They offer a single point of contact for admissions and access to a series of dedicated beds across the United Kingdom. South Staffordshire and Shropshire Foundation Trust describe their services as culturally sensitive and have proposed an in-patient care pathway that provides assessment and treatment in environments that would allow service patients to be accommodated in a separate area and be able to separate themselves from the civilian NHS population if they wished this and it was clinically appropriate. The South Staffordshire and Shropshire Foundation Trust’s philosophy and approach to in-patient care is consistent with that of the MOD and with generally accepted best practice; rapid assessment, stabilisation and return to care within the community as soon as possible.

The South Staffordshire and Shropshire Foundation Trust will provide locally based care through a network consisting of a group of five Foundation Trusts, one trust in the process of foundation trust application, and one NHS Scotland trust. These are: Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, NHS Grampian, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust, Somerset Partnership NHS Trust, and Hampshire Partnership NHS Trust. All of the trusts selected are rated good or excellent for their quality of care in the Healthcare Commission’s recent Annual Health Check. The South Staffordshire and Shropshire Foundation Trust will act as the “network lead” and as such, will guarantee the quality and governance of the services provided. The foundation trust status of the winning bidder offers MOD access to services that are subject to unprecedented levels of corporate governance and are monitored by an independent regulator.

The MOD will work with the South Staffordshire and Shropshire Foundation Trust to implement a transition to the new contract that will cause minimal disruption to current and future patients. The Priory Group has agreed to extend the existing contract until the end of February 2009 to allow for a transition period.

When combined with care provided on operations by our deployed military mental health professionals, in military primary care and in military community mental health centres, I am confident that this contract represents a continuation of the combination of the best of external and internal providers to deliver mental health care to national standards of excellence.

Energy and Climate Change

Energy Supply Companies

As I undertook to do in my statement to the House on 16 October 2008, Official Report, columns 935-937, yesterday I again met the main energy supply companies to discuss my concerns about a number of issues in the retail energy markets.

I reiterated my concerns about findings in the Ofgem report on the energy supply market, about the charges facing electricity-only customers and customers paying excessively high charges for their particular payment method. I made clear the importance the Government attaches to progress on these and other issues.

As part of the due process I referred to in my October statement, the companies have until 1 December to provide a formal response to the Ofgem findings. Ofgem will then come forward with its conclusions, including any proposed changes to licence conditions.

However, as promised in my statement, I stand ready to consult on legislation should there not be a speedy and satisfactory resolution to these issues.

At the meeting, I also highlighted the public’s concern about the current high level of retail prices. I impressed upon the companies the need for retail energy prices to reflect changes in wholesale prices as soon as possible. The Government and the industry are agreed on the need to bring down retail gas and electricity prices.

The meeting also recognised the need for very significant levels of investment in our energy infrastructure in the coming years.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Winter Supplementary Estimate

Subject to parliamentary approval of any necessary supplementary estimate, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs DEL will be increased by £753,000 from £3,745,525,000 to £3,746,278,000 and the Administration budget will be increased by £463,000 from £356,000,000 to £356,463,000. Within the DEL change, the impact on resources and capital are as set out in the following table:

£’000s

Change

New DEL

Voted

Non-voted

Voted

Non-voted

Total

Resource

-10,781

-5,456

4,075,484

-1,155,277

2,920,207

of which:

Administration Budget

463

-

356,463

-

356,463

Near-cash in RDEL

-37

-16,000

3,870,228

-1,257,821

2,612,407

Capital

790

16,000

665,682

351,189

1,016,871

Depreciation*

3,799

-3,599

-88,201

-102,599

-190,800

Total

-6,192

6,945

4,652,965

-906,687

3,746,278

* 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 DEL arises from (i) a transfer of £360,000 administration spend from the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform for the Office of Climate Change running costs; (ii) a transfer of £358,000 administration spend from the Cabinet for the legal services provided by the Parliamentary Counsel’s Office; (iii) a transfer of £915,000 to HM Treasury for sustainable procurement (£215,000 administration spend and £700,000 programme); (iv) a transfer of £40,000 programme spend to the Cabinet Office for the Government Security Zone; (v) a transfer of £16,000,000 of the departmental unallocated provision from resource to capital.

The change in the capital element of the DEL arises from (i) a transfer of £16,000,000 of the departmental unallocated provision to capital from resource; (ii) a transfer of £1,000,000 from the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform for the energy efficiency package; (iii) a transfer of £210,000 to the Department for Work and Pensions for the Machinery of Government transfer of the Pesticides Safety Directorate.

The change in the administration budget element of the DEL not explained above is due to a transfer of £40,000 from administration to programme in respect of the Government Security Zone transfer to the Cabinet Office.

The change in the depreciation budget is due to £200,000 transferring to the Department for Work and Pensions for the Machinery of Government transfer of the Pesticides Safety Directorate.

(1) The Machinery of Government (MoG) changes of 3 October 2008 announced the creation of the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), formed from the Energy Group located in BERR and the Climate Change Group located in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Both BERR and DEFRA will transfer their budgets for Energy and Climate Change respectively to the new Department, based on the settlements agreed in the comprehensive spending review 2007 (CSR07), for the financial years 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11. In view of the timing of the change, the formal transfer of budgets to the new Department is planned for the spring supplementary estimate. The winter supplementary estimate therefore reflects figures prior to the MoG changes.

Agriculture and Fisheries Council

The Minister for the Natural and Marine Environment, Wildlife and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Huw Irranca-Davies), and I will represent the United Kingdom at this month’s Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Brussels. Richard Lochhead, Elin Jones and Conor Murphy will also attend.

There will be the usual approval of the list of ‘A’ points, followed by fisheries items. The Council is due to agree proposals and discuss the following:

Bilateral fisheries agreement with Norway;

Allocation of cod fishing quotas to Poland in the Baltic Sea from 2008 to 2011;

Codification and modernisation of the control system applicable to the common fisheries policy;

Recovery of cod stocks;

Strategy for the sustainable development of European Aquaculture;

Commission report on the progress of the simplification process.

On agriculture, the Council will be seeking political agreements on the CAP health check and school fruit scheme, and discussing a proposal authorising the placing on the market of genetically modified soya bean products.

The following issues will be raised under any other business:

WTO—DDA negotiations

Analysis of the current situation concerning the pesticides package.

Health

“High Quality Care for All”

“High Quality Care for All”, the final report of the NHS next stage review, set out the vision of an NHS in which quality is the organising principle for everything the service does. The chief executive of the NHS, David Nicholson CBE, the NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh, and the chief nursing officer Dame Christine Beasley are today writing to every NHS organisation in England, asking them to start to take concrete steps to make this happen. The document they are sending to the NHS, “Measuring for Quality Improvement: the approach”, sets out clearly what local teams, NHS organisations—both providers and commissioners—and strategic health authorities will be asked to do to promote better measurement of quality to enable them to improve their services. It also describes the range of activities that the Department will undertake to support the NHS at local level.

The launch of “Measuring for Quality Improvement” marks both a key step towards realising the vision of “High Quality Care for All”, and the start of an important journey of improvement which will ultimately involve the entire NHS in England. A copy has been placed in the Library and copies are available for hon. Members from the Vote Office.

Northern Ireland

Boundary Commission for Northern Ireland

Schedule 1 to the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986 makes provision for the constitution of the four Boundary Commissions, including the Boundary Commission for Northern Ireland. Under paragraph 2 of Schedule 1 each Commission must consist of a Chairman, Deputy Chairman and two other members appointed by the Secretary of State. Following the expiry of his previous term of appointment, I have reappointed Richard Mackenzie CB as a member of the Boundary Commission for Northern Ireland for a further term of appointment to expire on 31 October 2012.

Work and Pensions

Rent Officers Order

Following the judgment of the Law Lords in the case of Heffernan—R (on the application of Heffernan) v the Rent Service—on Wednesday 30 July 2008, the Government will lay amendments to the Rent Officers (Housing Benefit Functions) Order 1997 and the Rent Officers (Housing Benefit Functions) (Scotland) Order 1997 in order to clarify the rules that enable rent officers to define the local rental market areas which help determine entitlement to housing benefit.

The way in which the geographical areas, or localities, for assessing housing benefit are determined has a direct impact on the amount of benefit individual customers receive. If applied, the judgment would result in a dramatic increase in the number of localities nationally, as each would be based on a limited number of neighbourhoods. These new locality boundaries would not necessarily be the same as those that existed before the rent services carried out their most recent reviews of boundaries and could result in a large number of low-income tenants finding that housing benefit would no longer cover their rent. Without amendment to the Rent Officers Order, this would now happen automatically.

This is not our policy intent which is why amendments will be laid at the earliest opportunity.

The routine locality reviews that were undertaken by the rent services in 2006-07 under the Rent Officers Order resulted in fewer localities across the country as a whole. These reviews were undertaken in consultation with local authorities, who have access to a discretionary fund to compensate individual tenants in hardship cases. The vast majority of the new boundaries were agreed by local authorities. The amendments of the Rent Officers Order will enable the rent services to review the boundaries in those localities where local consensus was not achieved. In any year, the rent services are committed to reviewing 25 per cent. of all locality boundaries.

Elbourne Review

On 22 May 2008 the Minister for Pensions Reform announced that John Elbourne had been asked to “examine the current arrangements for the engagement of older people and the ability of those arrangements to inform policy and actions of Government at all levels”. Specifically, this was to include examining better Government for older people.

John Elbourne will publish his report at 3 o’clock this afternoon on the Department for Work and Pensions website. This can be found at www.dwp.gov.uk/resourcecentre and a copy will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

The purpose of the review has been to examine whether there are any structural and/or organisational changes that can aid progress and enhance opportunities for older people to make themselves heard.

The report makes a range of recommendations for improving older people’s engagement with Government, which are: establishing a national advisory forum for older people; enhancing the role that regional Government offices play in supporting and developing engagement with older people; setting up regional forums to support local authorities; and building on the support for older people’s forums around the UK.

The Government invite comments on these recommendations and will respond to this report by 30 January 2009. Any comments should be sent to: Andrew Jennings, Department for Work and Pensions, Older People and Ageing Society Division, 3rd Floor The Adelphi, 1-11 John Adam Street, London, WC2N 6HT (email: andrew.jennings@dwp.gsi.gov.uk), to be received by 9 January 2009.