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Written Statements

Volume 485: debated on Monday 8 December 2008

Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 8 December 2008

Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform

EU Competitiveness Council

The following statement provides information on the Competitiveness Council which took place in Brussels on 1 December 2008, at which I represented the UK. The meeting was chaired by Mr. Hervé Novelli, French Minister of State responsible for Businesses and Foreign Trade, and Jean Pierre Jouyet, French Minister of State responsible for European Affairs.

The meeting started with consideration of intellectual property issues. The Commission emphasised the need for a better, more cost-effective patent system, and the role that the Competitiveness Council can play in boosting innovation, competitiveness, and economic recovery through agreement of the Community patent proposals during either the Czech or Swedish presidencies. Member states agreed on the principle, but remained divided on the substance. I emphasised the need for the Commission to undertake further economic analysis, particularly on the level of fees, and invited the Commission to present a negotiating mandate on the European patent court proposals at the earliest opportunity.

Following this the French presidency presented a report on gambling and betting policies in member states. They proposed further discussion of this issue in Council, with a particular focus on illegal gambling, addiction, crime prevention, including money laundering and consumer protection. I emphasised that the report should have gone further in setting out the potential benefits of effective regulation as opposed to prohibition, and questioned the appropriateness of further work in the Council, stressing that further clarity and improvement of standards could be achieved through the Commission continuing to enforce the treaty provisions, member states completing reviews of national legislation, and an improved dialogue between regulators and the sector itself. I tabled a minute statement (jointly with Malta) to this effect.

The main agenda item was a presentation by the European Commission on its communication on the response to the economic crisis. Member states were invited to respond during a discussion over lunch, although no formal conclusions were proposed or agreed. The main themes raised were the automotive industry, appropriate levels of state aid, the need for investment in infrastructure, and supporting the need to advance structural fund spend. Access to capital was highlighted as key to limiting the spread of the financial crisis.

The Commission went on to stress the important role of small and medium enterprises in the economic recovery of Europe. It highlighted the need to ensure access to finance and reducing administrative burdens, in particular an exemption for micro-companies from certain accounting requirements. I took part in unanimous agreement to conclusions to put in place a Small Business Act for Europe.

The French presidency also tabled a progress report on the European private company statute, an area where discussions will continue under the Czech presidency in 2009. On European clusters, Council conclusions were agreed without discussion. The Commission emphasised that the recent Communication on clusters should enable member states’ own policies to be more effective.

Under any other business, the Commission stressed that consumers and particularly consumer confidence would be key in the economic recovery, and that the new consumer rights directive introduced a simplified framework to unlock retail markets and raise choice at competitive prices. The French presidency called for rapid agreement of the defence procurement directive and signalled its intention to make every effort to reach a deal. I supported a Dutch paper on better regulation covering a sectoral targets, and an overall net reduction of 25 per cent. There were also brief presentations from Estonia and Portugal on the use of e-signatures to establish companies online, a request from Spain for tourism to be included as a sector in the economic recovery package, a Commission presentation on its raw materials communication, and an update from the French presidency covering negotiations on toys and cosmetics, which have the potential for First Reading Deals in December 2008 and January 2009 respectively.

Treasury

Parliamentary Questions (Cost)

The Treasury has conducted its annual indexation exercise of the cost of oral and written parliamentary questions so as to ensure that these costs are increased in line with increases in underlying costs. The revised costs, which will apply from 3 December 2008, the first day of the 2008-09 session, are:

oral questions £410

written questions £149

The disproportionate cost threshold will be increased to £750, also with effect from the 3 December 2008.

Communities and Local Government

Home Buying and Selling

For most people, buying or selling a home is the most important financial transaction they will undertake. It is often also one of the most stressful and difficult. Home information packs (HIPs) were introduced to give consumers more information from the outset of that transaction, making the process fairer, faster and more transparent. Existing regulations which allow for a delay in providing a HIP and for transitional insurance cover expire at the end of December. I propose to extend them until 6 April 2009.

This statement outlines the changes we propose to make to HIPs to make them work more effectively from that date, both by expanding the content and ensuring they are available right from the start. The proposals give the industry and prospective sellers time to prepare for the changes.

Expanding HIP content

Following consultation, I am today laying an order amending the regulations so that from 6 April 2009 HIPs must include a property information questionnaire. This will give buyers more useful information to help them make decisions about whether to view a property, and ultimately, whether to make an offer. The forms have been designed to be quick, easy and straightforward for sellers to complete.

For leasehold properties, the property information questionnaire will include a summary of the leasehold arrangements, replacing previous requirements. I am also laying an order making the temporary leasehold information provision permanent from 1 January 2009. This means that a copy of the lease will continue to be the only extra information required for leasehold properties.

Although take-up of home condition reports has been disappointing, we know that people want to know about the condition of homes before they commit to buy them. I will establish a working group to explore options for making sure that consumers have appropriate information about a property’s condition. This will build on the work carried out by the stakeholder panel to develop market-led models that can be delivered by existing practitioners, including home inspectors.

Making HIPs available sooner

It is essential that buyers are able to see the information in the HIP as soon as possible. However, with the temporary first day marketing provision, while sellers must order and pay for the HIP, agents may take up to 28 days before making it available.

As a result, some buyers looking to move quickly are making decisions about purchases without ever seeing the HIP. Some sellers are paying for a pack that they never receive. And some estate agents are said to be using this period to avoid complying with the relevant regulations on marketing properties. We are therefore ending this first day marketing provision from 6 April 2009 so that all buyers will get the information they need as soon as possible.

We recognise the present difficulties in the housing market. But that makes it even more important to remove uncertainties for buyers and sellers; speeding up and smoothing out the process. So this change will mean that sellers will not face unnecessary delays. A recent survey of 16,000 transactions showed that where a HIP was available, exchanges were, on average, actually completed six days quicker.

The information required for a basic HIP, which a seller will need to start marketing their property, is readily available in three to five days. Sellers will still have up to 28 days to provide certain information that may take longer to compile such as the property search. Nor will this mean extra burdens for estate agents—they will still be able to advise potential clients about properties they expect to be coming onto the market soon. And independent research by Europe Economics has already concluded that HIPs do not have an impact on house prices or transactions.

Ending transitional insurance cover provision

This provision was intended to enable the private sector to conduct property searches in local authorities where access to relevant data were restricted. But in practice, too many search providers are using this provision even where the data are readily available. Lacking the relevant information, in some cases buyers have had to pay for a second search to be carried out by the local authority. This is not acceptable. Wherever possible, consumers need information rather than insurance; and they should not have to pay for it twice.

The Under-Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Wright), has already laid provisions introducing a new charging regime for local authority property searches data. As charges become fairer, private sector searchers will have easier access and should therefore not need this insurance cover, which will end on 6 April 2009, coinciding with the introduction of the property information questionnaire.

I want to make sure that consumers find property searches as informative and helpful as possible. I have asked Ted Beardsall, former deputy chief executive of the Land Registry, to convene a working group to consider how these might be made simpler and more easy to use.

Better enforcement and service standards

Consumers should be in no doubt that we will protect their rights and champion their interests where sellers or estate agents try to avoid or neglect their responsibilities and obligations. Estate agents who break the law face sanctions.

The changes introduced today will make it easier for local trading standards agencies to identify specific cases of non-compliance and enforce the requirements.

We also want to make sure that both buyers and sellers get a good service from professionals working in the industry. They should be clear about the standards of service they are entitled to, how the industry is regulated, and where to go if they have concerns or complaints. So I am pleased that the Office of Fair Trading will be conducting a comprehensive study of home buying and selling, looking at competition between service providers and how consumer interests are served. My Department will work closely with the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform to support this study, which should provide important evidence about how effectively the industry is working at present and whether further reform may be needed.

These changes will make sure that consumers are better protected, and better informed. They will get the vital information they need when they need it, with a copy of the HIP available up-front and a property search which is fit for purpose. This will give them greater value for money, and greater peace of mind. Industry bodies and property professionals will also benefit from greater certainty about how the process should work. The Department will be preparing and communicating advice to help consumers and industry understand and plan for the changes.

Defence

Counter-terrorism and Resilience Report (Government Response)

In July 2007, my right hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Mr. Ingram) was asked to undertake a detailed study into the role of the Ministry of Defence in counter-terrorism and resilience. The then Secretary of State for Defence announced its completion in July. This statement sets out the Government response.

The report reinforces a central theme of the national security strategy—that there can be no simple distinction between defence and wider security or domestic and overseas considerations. Counter-terrorism and resilience require an integrated approach. Government Departments must work ever more closely together and with other stakeholders to overcome institutional barriers, including in respect of funding. This includes Defence.

My right hon. Friend has looked at the full range of defence capabilities and at all of our linkages with other organisations. In outline, the report endorses the approach that the primary focus for Defence’s counter-terrorism contribution should continue to be overseas, with any role in the UK restricted to the provision of niche capabilities to the civil authorities or augmentation in times of emergency. The emphasis is on the increasing use of “smart” power to gain strategic insight and intelligence and to develop relationships which enable work across all strands of the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy. Within the UK the report concludes that Defence should continue to provide specialist support to police forces, and that it should be strengthened including through an enhanced exercise programme.

The study has found that we could make more of some of our strengths, such as in strategic planning, education and research and development. In that context, we may have more to offer on protective security and planning support on security for the 2012 Olympic games.

I welcome and agree in principle the 29 recommendations outlined in the report. They complement the development of a classified defence capabilities compendium which we have provided to those who may call upon support from Defence. The recommendations will be implemented across Government, co-ordinated and developed where necessary by the national security secretariat. The security classification prevents us from publishing the report in full, but the Defence Committee has been given access to the report as part of their inquiry into national security and resilience.

Northern Ireland (Normalisation)

My statement to the House on 25 July 2007, Official Report, column 73WS announced the cessation of Operation Banner. Since then we have continued to refine our military structures in Northern Ireland commensurate with normalisation and I now judge that we can remove the post of General Officer Commanding (GOC) in Northern Ireland.

The current GOC will complete his tour at the end of the year and we do not expect to replace him. The Commander of 38 (Irish) Brigade and Northern Ireland Garrison will thereafter become the senior officer based in Northern Ireland. The change shall result in a small reduction in military posts which will be reabsorbed into other areas across Defence. We aim to have command in Northern Ireland fully normalised by January 2009.

This step reflects our commitment towards security normalisation in Northern Ireland. The armed forces will continue to provide support to the PSNI, and contribute to civil contingencies where required through the normal procedures for military aid to the civil authorities in the UK.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

General Affairs and External Relations Council

The General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) will be held on 8 December in Brussels. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will represent the UK.

The agenda items are as follows:

General Affairs

Preparation of the European Council on 11-12 December 2008

The Council will discuss the Presidency's draft agenda for the December European Council, which will be dominated by the EU’s response to the next stage of the economic downturn and the financial crisis. We can also expect substantial discussions on the 2020 climate change package. Other agenda items include the Lisbon Treaty ratification process, the Common Agricultural Policy, the European Security and Defence Policy and the Eastern Partnership.

The Government broadly support the presidency’s priorities for the December European Council. We welcome a continued co-ordinated response to the economic and financial crisis; and remain fully committed to reaching an ambitious agreement on the 2020 climate change package by the end of 2008. On the Common Agricultural Policy, we would not support any language that pre-empts the EU budget review.

Enlargement

We expect Ministers to agree Conclusions on EU enlargement that reconfirm the Council’s consensus in support of enlargement on the basis that the EU should stick to its commitments, apply conditionality fairly and rigorously, and improve communication. We expect Ministers to welcome the European Commission Communication of 5 November on enlargement strategy and progress reports for candidates and potential candidates. They will take stock of the progress of accession negotiations with Turkey and Croatia, urging both countries to redouble their efforts to implement the necessary reforms, given that the pace of the negotiations depends on this. In the case of Croatia the Commission has proposed a conditional road map for the conclusion of negotiations in 2009. We expect Ministers to express support for the forthcoming Czech Presidency’s plans for an event to mark the anniversary of the fifth wave of enlargement in 2004.

External Relations

World Trade Organisation (WTO)—Doha Development Agenda (DDA)

It now appears likely that a WTO ministerial on the DDA will be convened later in December. The discussion is likely to focus on the EU position and tactics ahead of the proposed ministerial. The Government expect partners to express a range of views on the likely outcome and success of the negotiations, reiterating in this context domestic concerns. Achieving agreement in the DDA remains the Government’s top trade priority and our objective at the GAERC will be to ensure Partners’ continued support for the European Commission, so that it can negotiate the best possible outcome for the EU.

Western Balkans

Discussion is likely to focus on Kosovo, and in particular deployment of the EU’s rule of law mission, EULEX. Kosovo has made clear its agreement to EULEX deployment while, following last week’s presidential statement in the UN Security Council, Serbia has also announced that it would support it. The Government believe EULEX should rapidly become operational throughout Kosovo.

Ministers are also likely to discuss Serbia’s progress towards the EU. The Government believes that Serbia has in recent months significantly improved its co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague. While we would be happy for the EU to recognise that improvement—for example by allowing the entry into force of the “Interim Agreement”—we believe that Serbia will need to demonstrate full co-operation with ICTY before its stabilisation and association agreement with the EU can be ratified.

Middle East

The Council will discuss the renewed EU action strategy for peace in the Middle East, recognising the need for a comprehensive regional approach utilising the Arab peace initiative. Ministers will reaffirm the EU’s commitment to focus on supporting Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and assisting Palestinian state building efforts.

We expect Council conclusions to: condemn all violence; urge a halt to new settlement activities; and call for an urgent improvement in the Gaza humanitarian situation, the release of Gilad Shalit and an increase in the numbers of Palestinian prisoners released.

The Council will confirm that the Middle East Peace Process is a top priority for the EU and will remain so into 2009, and urge the next US Administration to participate in early engagement on this issue.

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

Discussion is likely to focus on progress towards a political resolution of the conflict in eastern DRC. Ministers will consider how the EU can support the efforts of former President Obasanjo, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to the region. They are also likely to discuss ways of alleviating the very serious humanitarian consequences of recent fighting. As the CNDP militia—rebels loyal to Laurent Nkunda— retreats from positions it has captured recently, it is vital that humanitarian aid can reliably reach the people who need it. This requires appropriate military capacity and Ministers are likely to consider what role the EU can play in the augmentation of the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC).

Zimbabwe

We expect conclusions to condemn the ongoing failure to reach an equitable power-sharing agreement in Zimbabwe. We anticipate that the Council will express serious concern at the deepening humanitarian crisis and the rising incidents of cholera in Zimbabwe. The EU will reaffirm its commitment to the alleviation of suffering through the provision of aid.

Pakistan

We expect conclusions to welcome Pakistan’s return to democracy and commitment to step up measures to counter terrorism and extremism. We also expect Ministers to commit to further developing EU political dialogue in a number of areas including: trade and development; intercultural exchange; non-proliferation; human rights; counter-terrorism; and radicalisation and education. The Council will discuss how best to intensify political dialogue in line with EU commitments to enhance engagement with Pakistan. The Council will also acknowledge Pakistan’s request to initiate the process for an EU-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement and will commit to examining all the options aimed at enhancing trade relations.

European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP)

Ministers will consider efforts to improve the capabilities of the EU Member States; teaching partnerships with organisations such as NATO and UN; and ongoing EU operations, including the operation to improve maritime security off the coast of Somalia, which will be commanded by a British Rear Admiral from the UK’s multinational headquarters at Northwood. Ministers will also agree statements on increasing co-operation between the European Defence Agency (EDA) and the Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR); a voluntary scheme for the exchange of young military officers; civilian and military capabilities; and on international security. The Government welcome this opportunity to underline the importance we attach to further improving the EU’s ability to stabilise countries emerging from conflict.

We also expect Ministers to approve a review by high representative Solana of the implementation of the European Security Strategy. The document is intended to complement—not replace—the 2003 Strategy which was the EU’s first high level security strategy. The review text focuses mainly on what has been achieved and what has changed. It highlights new threats to stability since 2003: climate change, energy security, globalisation, proliferation, cyber security, piracy. The Government can welcome the broad direction of the document and its key policy conclusions—greater coherence, engagement with the neighbourhood and capabilities.

Health

Primary Care Trust Revenue Allocations/NHS Operating Framework

The national health service has benefited from successive generous spending settlements, as investment in the NHS has trebled since 1997. This investment has funded the record increases in staff, hospitals and medical advances we have seen in recent years.

We have also seen strong financial management across the NHS over the last few years, which has turned a deficit into a healthy surplus. The NHS has exceeded its Gershon efficiency targets, delivering £7.88 billion savings over the last four years. We expect the NHS to continue to deliver at this level, and to bring forward further proposals to drive additional efficiencies throughout their operations. We can be confident, therefore, that in the tighter economic climate ahead, the NHS is on a firm financial footing and will be well equipped to meet the efficiency challenges of the coming years.

I am pleased to announce today the next round of revenue allocations to primary care trusts (PCTs) for 2009-10 and 2010-11. PCTs will receive an average increase of 5.5 per cent. in both years, a total increase in funding of £8.6 billion, bringing the total allocations to PCTs over two years to £164 billion.

This means that by 2010-11 PCTs will receive, on average, £1,612 per person. The comparable figure in 1996-97 was £426 per head. We are putting a greater proportion of the resources available into local communities and closer to patients, with more than 80 per cent. of the NHS revenue budget allocated directly to PCTs.

I will be writing this week to every hon. Member in England detailing their relevant PCT’s allocations for the two years. I also have included with this statement a table of the 2009-10 and 2010-11 PCT revenue allocations.

The allocations that I am announcing today are based on a new, more technically robust formula that has been recommended by the independent Advisory Committee on Resource Allocation (ACRA). This improves on the previous formula by:

targeting funds at the places with the worse health outcomes;

assessing need according to age and other factors together for the first time; and

a new market forces factor (MFF) which reduces unhelpful variation.

It includes a health inequalities formula that continues to target resources to the places with the biggest health problems.

I have placed in the Library ACRA’s report and recommendations on the funding formula to make it fairer.

Alongside these revenue allocations, David Nicholson, the NHS chief executive, is publishing this week the NHS operating framework for 2009-10, which sets out the priorities for next year.

This year’s operating framework sets out how we will support the health service to deliver the vision in Lord Darzi’s “High Quality Care for All” to put quality at the heart of everything the NHS does.

To ensure that we continue to empower and support the local NHS, we need to plot a stable and consistent path. Therefore, the five key priorities for the NHS are consistent with last year:

improving standards of cleanliness and tackling healthcare associated infections;

improving access to care through the achievement of the 18-week referral to treatment pledge and improving access to GP services, including at evenings and at weekends;

improving the health of adults and children and reducing health inequalities, by focusing on improving care for cancer and stroke, and paying particular attention to children’s health, particularly in the most deprived areas of the country;

improving patient experience, staff satisfaction and engagement; and

preparing to respond in a state of emergency, such as an outbreak of pandemic influenza.

Alongside the national priorities, PCTs will set their own local priorities built on evidence about local needs. They will need to work in step with local government through local area agreements that focus on improving health and well-being as well as better healthcare.

To deliver that agenda of improving services for patients in this challenging economic climate, we need to redouble our efforts to improve efficiency in the public sector and to get best value for taxpayers’ money.

In this context, high quality care is not a luxury but a necessity. Prioritising the most effective treatments, reducing errors and waste and keeping people healthy and independent for as long as possible are all things that contribute not only to the quality of care, but also to a more efficient and productive health service. High quality and value for money are not competing alternatives; they are one and the same thing.

We will accelerate our commitment to implement the vision of quality as the organising principle for the NHS set out in “High Quality Care for All”. As Lord Darzi said in his interim report last year: “Effective care matters of course because patients should get the best outcomes. The evidence also shows that the most effective treatment is very often the most efficient treatment”.

For example, through the great efforts of the NHS to tackle healthcare associated infections in recent years, we estimate the NHS has already saved over £75 million in reduced bed days and drug costs, while improving outcomes for patients. These savings will rise as we continue to drive down infection rates. Better care equals better value

Recent efforts have underlined the potential for further efficiency gains. As the NHS develops its plans in 2009, it will build on the work of the cross-Government operational efficiency programme and Department of Health’s own public value programme.

Already we have estimated there are substantial savings that can be delivered through driving up the quality of care, reducing waste and better commissioning and procurement, including, through better use of shared business services, improvements in the way the NHS estate is used, driving up quality through the world class commissioning programme, and changes to the tariff.

Over the course of the next year, the NHS will plan, bottom-up and in detail, how these productivity opportunities will be realised in 2010-11 and in future years. We want the NHS to bring forward the best package of measures appropriate to each locality.

Of course, a renewed drive for efficiency will be challenging, but even after making an allowance for improved efficiency, with 5.5 per cent. allocations in both of the next two years and prudent drawdown of £800 million of the NHS surplus over the same period, we are confident that the NHS can still secure the continuous improvement in care that patients, public and staff rightly demand.

2009-10 and 2010-11 PCT Revenue Allocations

2009-10

Allocation

2010-11

Allocation

Two-year

Increase

Two-year

Increase

2010-11

Closing DFT

£000s

£000s

£000s

%

%

Ashton, Leigh and Wigan PCT

511,831

539,982

54,834

11.3%

-4.5%

Barking and Dagenham PCT

301,080

316,599

30,789

10.8%

1.3%

Barnet PCT

528,745

555,931

53,442

10.6%

6.7%

Barnsley PCT

409,151

437,291

57,837

15.2%

-6.2%

Bassetlaw PCT

167,978

182,407

26,671

17.1%

-6.2%

Bath and North East Somerset PCT

255,385

268,516

25,812

10.6%

4.4%

Bedfordshire PCT

551,987

585,386

62,176

11.9%

-3.5%

Berkshire East PCT

532,623

560,009

53,833

10.6%

3.7%

Berkshire West PCT

597,061

627,760

60,346

10.6%

5.1%

Bexley Care Trust

321,350

337,896

32,552

10.7%

1.4%

Birmingham East and North PCT

674,108

711,184

72,219

11.3%

-2.5%

Blackburn with Darwen PCT

258,536

272,755

27,698

11.3%

-2.4%

Blackpool PCT

263,731

278,236

28,254

11.3%

-3.6%

Bolton PCT

439,803

463,992

47,117

11.3%

-2.6%

Bournemouth and Poole Teaching PCT

509,384

535,575

51,485

10.6%

3.6%

Bradford and Airedale Teaching PCT

810,920

856,745

88,101

11.5%

-1.2%

Brent Teaching PCT

501,538

527,325

50,692

10.6%

7.7%

Brighton and Hove City PCT

438,902

461,469

44,361

10.6%

7.7%

Bristol PCT

660,306

695,459

68,412

10.9%

0.4%

Bromley PCT

466,265

490,239

47,126

10.6%

8.6%

Buckinghamshire PCT

652,120

685,650

65,911

10.6%

2.1%

Bury PCT

282,130

297,647

30,225

11.3%

-3.1%

Calderdale PCT

308,563

325,895

33,418

11.4%

-1.4%

Cambridgeshire PCT

777,313

827,498

90,708

12.3%

-2.1%

Camden PCT

453,989

477,331

45,886

10.6%

12.4%

Central and Eastern Cheshire PCT

645,100

679,543

67,099

11.0%

0.4%

Central Lancashire PCT

688,006

725,915

73,777

11.3%

-2.2%

City and Hackney Teaching PCT

472,222

496,502

47,729

10.6%

6.6%

Cornwall and Isles of Stilly PCT

808,369

856,214

94,181

12.4%

-6.2%

County Durham PCT

886,825

935,601

95,008

11.3%

-5.4%

Coventry Teaching PCT

529,616

558,745

56,739

11.3%

-0.3%

Croydon PCT

526,752

553,836

53,240

10.6%

5.1%

Cumbria Teaching PCT

783,807

826,917

83,971

11.3%

-2.0%

Darlington PCT

166,081

174,705

16,913

10.7%

0.9%

Derby City PCT

405,847

428,169

43,479

11.3%

-5.8%

Derbyshire County PCT

1,048,875

1,107,225

118,065

11.9%

-6.2%

Devon PCT

1,088,020

1,152,427

121,128

11.7%

-1.0%

Doncaster PCT

502,312

529,939

53,814

11.3%

-5.5%

Dorset PCT

580,964

613,261

62,584

11.4%

-0.6%

Dudley PCT

461,918

487,324

49,487

11.3%

-3.9%

Ealing PCT

545,775

573,837

55,163

10.6%

8.0%

East and North Hertfordshire PCT

759,311

803,338

83,612

11.6%

-0.6%

East Lancashire Teaching PCT

629,300

663,912

67,419

11.3%

-0.2%

East Riding of Yorkshire PCT

432,198

458,519

49,720

12.2%

-6.2%

East Sussex Downs and Weald PCT

513,310

539,702

51,881

10.6%

2.4%

Eastern and Coastal Kent PCT

1,151,643

1,216,563

124,958

11.4%

-0.8%

Enfield PCT

436,718

459,173

44,140

10.6%

2.1%

Gateshead PCT

357,224

376,601

38,000

11.2%

0.1%

Gloucestershire PCT

825,908

868,490

83,597

10.7%

1.3%

Great Yarmouth and Waveney PCT

361,014

381,535

39,341

11.5%

-2.9%

Greenwich Teaching PCT

424,160

445,968

42,871

10.6%

4.0%

Halton and St. Helens PCT

537,116

566,657

57,543

11.3%

-4.5%

Hammersmith and Fulham PCT

326,448

343,232

32,995

10.6%

16.2%

Hampshire PCT

1,709,698

1,799,471

175,170

10.8%

0.7%

Haringey Teaching PCT

424,321

446,139

42,887

10.6%

2.1%

Harrow PCT

313,370

329,483

31,673

10.6%

7.4%

Hartlepool PCT

163,405

172,392

17,506

11.3%

-4.3%

Hastings and Rother PCT

303,746

319,363

30,700

10.6%

2.1%

Havering PCT

376,447

396,316

39,278

11.0%

0.5%

Heart of Birmingham Teaching PCT

523,451

550,366

52,906

10.6%

10.2%

Herefordshire PCT

256,778

272,050

28,658

11.8%

-3.1%

Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale PCT

358,484

378,201

38,405

11.3%

0.0%

Hillingdon PCT

379,496

399,009

38,357

10.6%

6.4%

Hounslow PCT

362,964

381,627

36,686

10.6%

5.1%

Hull Teaching PCT

455,982

481,061

48,959

11.3%

-6.0%

Isle of Wight NHS PCT

232,671

245,882

25,341

11.5%

-1.2%

Islington PCT

412,126

433,316

41,655

10.6%

11.7%

Kensington and Chelsea PCT

337,424

354,773

34,104

10.6%

20.4%

Kingston PCT

249,459

262,286

25,213

10.6%

13.5%

Kirklees PCT

598,931

631,872

64,165

11.3%

-1.8%

Knowsley PCT

303,843

320,554

32,552

11.3%

-0.1%

Lambeth PCT

580,017

609,840

58,624

10.6%

14.8%

Leeds PCT

1,169,992

1,235,149

126,152

11.4%

-1.7%

Leicester City PCT

488,731

515,611

58,787

12.9%

-6.1%

Leicestershire County and Rutland PCT

830,158

879,975

93,096

11.8%

-5.6%

Lewisham PCT

484,939

509,873

49,014

10.6%

12.0%

Lincolnshire Teaching PCT

1,060,265

1,127,697

136,737

13.8%

-6.2%

Liverpool PCT

906,876

953,504

91,817

10.7%

1.7%

Luton PCT

282,841

298,802

30,707

11.5%

-2.4%

Manchester PCT

925,276

979,818

102,780

11.7%

-3.5%

Medway PCT

391,582

412,814

41,635

11.2%

0.2%

Mid Essex PCT

461,830

488,887

51,133

11.7%

-3.5%

Middlesbrough PCT

257,714

271,888

27,610

11.3%

-0.6%

Milton Keynes PCT

315,520

338,522

39,450

13.2%

-3.2%

Newcastle PCT

466,097

490,062

47,110

10.6%

2.8%

Newham PCT

510,371

536,897

51,869

10.7%

0.9%

Norfolk PCT

1,069,968

1,133,968

119,781

11.8%

-5.1%

North East Essex PCT

489,796

520,205

55,943

12.0%

-5.3%

North East Lincolnshire Care Trust Plus

259,146

273,399

27,763

11.3%

-1.9%

North Lancashire Teaching PCT

520,037

549,674

56,748

11.5%

-3.7%

North Lincolnshire PCT

238,152

252,197

28,256

12.6%

-6.2%

North Somerset PCT

287,957

306,265

33,320

12.2%

-5.2%

North Staffordshire PCT

316,252

333,646

33,881

11.3%

-2.9%

North Tyneside PCT

345,791

364,810

37,046

11.3%

-1.2%

North Yorkshire and York PCT

1,076,587

1,139,019

118,557

11.6%

-2.4%

Northamptonshire Teaching PCT

927,249

983,436

104,527

11.9%

-1.4%

Northumberland Care Trust

498,897

526,337

53,448

11.3%

-3.2%

Nottingham City PCT

487,694

514,727

53,945

11.7%

-6.2%

Nottinghamshire County Teaching PCT

943,520

997,415

105,012

11.8%

-6.2%

Oldham PCT

379,096

399,946

40,614

11.3%

-1.4%

Oxfordshire PCT

830,948

873,673

83,986

10.6%

3.2%

Peterborough PCT

244,676

257,356

24,830

10.7%

1.0%

Plymouth Teaching PCT

393,303

416,482

43,682

11.7%

-5.9%

Portsmouth City Teaching PCT

311,043

328,095

33,267

11.3%

0.0%

Redbridge PCT

365,515

385,618

39,159

11.3%

-1.1%

Redcar and Cleveland PCT

233,544

246,388

25,020

11.3%

-1.6%

Richmond and Twickenham PCT

267,442

281,193

27,031

10.6%

23.4%

Rotherham PCT

409,554

432,140

45,922

11.9%

-6.2%

Salford PCT

425,994

449,125

45,339

11.2%

0.1%

Sandwell PCT

523,488

552,279

56,083

11.3%

-5.4%

Sefton PCT

479,220

503,861

48,463

10.6%

1.9%

Sheffield PCT

885,052

931,076

90,381

10.8%

0.9%

Shropshire County PCT

412,573

436,629

45,564

11.7%

-3.8%

Solihull Care Trust

294,018

310,080

31,371

11.3%

0.1%

Somerset PCT

751,518

796,505

84,166

11.8%

-2.6%

South Birmingham PCT

587,304

619,168

62,482

11.2%

0.1%

South East Essex PCT

500,226

527,738

53,591

11.3%

-2.2%

South Gloucestershire PCT

323,108

339,722

32,657

10.6%

2.2%

South Staffordshire PCT

826,224

873,709

104,752

13.6%

-6.2%

South Tyneside PCT

279,272

294,039

29,326

11.1%

0.5%

South West Essex PCT

602,217

635,283

64,461

11.3%

0.0%

Southampton City PCT

368,298

388,555

39,457

11.3%

-1.9%

Southwark PCT

492,748

518,084

49,803

10.6%

5.7%

Stockport PCT

431,751

453,950

43,638

10.6%

3.4%

Stockton-on-Tees Teaching PCT

287,728

303,980

31,252

11.5%

-6.0%

Stoke-on-Trent PCT

451,376

476,202

53,205

12.6%

-5.5%

Suffolk PCT

820,056

869,582

92,277

11.9%

-4.0%

Sunderland Teaching PCT

510,293

537,800

54,110

11.2%

0.2%

Surrey PCT

1,565,807

1,646,316

158,260

10.6%

11.6%

Sutton and Merton PCT

583,188

613,174

58,944

10.6%

9.7%

Swindon PCT

277,524

294,545

31,489

12.0%

-1.3%

Tameside and Glossop PCT

383,015

404,080

41,033

11.3%

-1.5%

Telford and Wrekin PCT

237,482

251,590

26,636

11.8%

-6.2%

Torbay Care Trust

236,008

249,424

25,720

11.5%

-3.4%

Tower Hamlets PCT

447,591

470,605

45,239

10.6%

3.4%

Trafford PCT

340,332

357,831

34,398

10.6%

7.7%

Wakefield District PCT

564,093

595,118

66,463

12.6%

-6.2%

Walsall Teaching PCT

425,164

448,548

45,549

11.3%

-2.2%

Waltham Forest PCT

395,510

415,846

39,977

10.6%

2.2%

Wandsworth PCT

488,965

514,106

49,421

10.6%

14.4%

Warrington PCT

290,606

306,628

31,172

11.3%

-1.4%

Warwickshire PCT

739,819

781,747

80,496

11.5%

-1.4%

West Essex PCT

390,481

410,562

39,470

10.6%

1.6%

West Hertfordshire PCT

773,604

813,380

78,190

10.6%

5.3%

West Kent PCT

926,518

977,459

98,922

11.3%

0.0%

West Sussex PCT

1,172,602

1,232,894

118,518

10.6%

3.7%

Western Cheshire PCT

375,103

394,678

38,320

10.8%

0.8%

Westminster PCT

447,789

470,813

45,259

10.6%

20.8%

Wiltshire PCT

610,462

642,526

62,527

10.8%

0.6%

Wirral PCT

565,696

594,782

57,176

10.6%

2.3%

Wolverhampton City PCT

408,545

431,015

43,769

11.3%

-2.6%

Worcestershire PCT

771,728

815,248

83,752

11.4%

-2.6%

England

80,030,703

84,432,392

8,573,905

11.3%

0.0%

Home Department

Strategic Policing priorities

In July 2008 I was privileged to be able to announce that the British crime survey had shown that the police service, working with its partners, had achieved an 18 per cent. reduction in crime over the last three years. On the same day, I published “From the Neighbourhood to the National”, the Government’s policing Green Paper, which set out a radical new vision for policing in the 21st century.

The Green Paper set out proposals for the Home Office to take a much more strategic role in policing by moving to a single top-down numerical target for police forces in England and Wales, with the removal of all others set for forces by central Government. This target focuses every force on whether they have the public’s confidence that they are identifying and addressing the crime and ASB issues that matter most to their local diverse communities. In addition, building on the reviews of Sir Ronnie Flanagan and Louise Casey, we outlined proposals for reducing bureaucracy and introducing a new policing pledge so that police officers could focus on the public’s priorities and provide an accessible, transparent and consistent service that meets public needs and expectations.

It is in this context that I am today putting forward my strategic priorities to the police service for 2009-10. Under the provisions of the Police Reform Act 2002 I am required each year to set out strategic policing priorities (SPPs) for the police service and these provide the national framework within which police authorities then set their local policing plans. This year I have moved away from prioritising specific crimes and I emphasise the strategic context in which local accountability and planning should be undertaken so that forces tackle the issues that matter most locally and get best value for money for the public from the resources devoted to policing.

The move to a new approach has been highlighted in a number of national strategies, such as: the “National Community Safety Plan 2008-11”, “Cutting Crime: A New Partnership 2008-11” and the “National Security Strategy”, as well as the PSA cross-Government priorities for 2008-11, especially PSA23, PSA24, PSA25 and PSA 26. In addition, a set of local priorities will underpin the new policing pledge, which will also set out a common national entitlement for what people can expect from the police. It should be emphasised that neither the pledge nor these national strategies contain additional specific top-down numerical targets for forces, and are intended to support forces and authorities in responding to the local priorities that are agreed with local people.

Forces will work collaboratively with local partners—including through crime and disorder reduction partnerships and community safety partnerships—to meet shared local objectives. In England this includes those objectives that are agreed through local strategic partnerships within local area agreements.

I have laid great emphasis on the need to focus on local priorities in the Green Paper but, as its title “From the Neighbourhood to the National” suggests, it also delivers an equally vital message on the importance of delivering the national priorities. I have set out a vision that sees policing delivering a high quality service to the public at all levels, from the local to the regional and on to the national.

For serious and organised crime, I believe there is a continuous line stretching between these levels. This means forces need a continuum of effective policing in response, which relies on effective collaboration and co-ordination among relevant partners; and that means, in turn, forces and authorities working outside and across individual force boundaries.

Our expectation is that forces and authorities will work in the interests of regions and the country and to collaborate to achieve improvements. Collaboration takes various forms, from tackling serious and cross-border crime to the development of the national counter-terrorism network in bringing together intelligence, investigative and operational activity against the terrorist threat. This relies heavily on confidence in policing. The success of a key component of our counter-terrorism strategy—Prevent—depends, in part, in the confidence local communities have in their police service.

There must be a priority on the cohesive view of all aspects of policing, through building confidence in the service, and leading to a more effective police service at all levels. There is little benefit in increasing public confidence through local policing and ignoring protective services. These may be services with less of a public face and more uncertain demand, but they have the potential to impact heavily on public confidence if they fall short.

The Green Paper emphasises that greater collaboration across the police service is essential to mitigate this risk and to realise the necessary improvements in protective services. The same emphasis should apply for specialist crimes.

In summary, the SPPs for 2009-10 are to:

Continue to increase public confidence in the police through tackling local priorities; also to reduce and prevent crime and anti-social behaviour and help tackle the problems caused by drug and alcohol misuse, in line with PSAs 23 and 25, and in a co-ordinated approach with other CJS partners deliver an effective criminal justice response in line with PSA24;

Work jointly with police forces and other agencies, such as SOCA and UKBA, to ensure that the capability and capacity exists across England and Wales to deliver effective protective services, including tackling serious and organised crime;

Work with and through partners and local communities to tackle terrorism and violent extremism in line with the counter terrorism strategy—Contest—and PSA 26; and

Work in all of the above, in line with the efficiency and productivity strategy for the police service, to ensure the best use of resources to deliver: significant cashable improvements; more effective deployment of the work force; and to realise benefits of new technology.

International Development

St. Helena

DFID and Her Majesty’s Treasury are in continuing discussions about issues of concern regarding access to St. Helena. As a result, there will be a pause in negotiations over the St. Helena airport contract. The Government of St. Helena and relevant commercial parties have been advised of the situation and will be kept updated.

Justice

Independent Advisory Panel on Deaths in Custody

In July this year, my predecessor the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Garston (Maria Eagle) announced that Ministers had decided to implement the recommendations of the independent review of the Forum for Preventing Deaths in Custody, 21 July 2008, Official Report, column 75 WS. The review itself was made public in February of this year.

The review made recommendations for significant reforms to the existing structures. Its central recommendation was the establishment of a three tier body, the Ministerial Council on Deaths in Custody. A ministerial board, which I will chair jointly with ministerial colleagues from Department of Health and Home Office, will include the heads of key agencies and will form the first of the three-tiers. The Board’s principal source of advice and recommendations will be an independent advisory panel on deaths in custody, which will form the second tier. The panel will be independently chaired and made up of experts in relevant fields.

Following a recruitment process conducted in line with the guidance of the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments, I am pleased to announce the appointment of my noble Friend Lord Harris of Haringey as the first chair of the panel. Lord Harris has considerable experience of the criminal justice system and other areas of public service. The panel will play an important role in helping to shape Government policy in the area of deaths in custody. As panel chair, Lord Harris will be influential in setting the panel’s objectives, its programme of work and the tone for its relationships with other stakeholders. The new ministerial council will become operational from April 2009. Lord Harris will undertake some early work to ensure a smooth transition from current arrangements. I look forward to working with him.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission's Ninth Annual Report

I have today laid before the House a copy of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission’s annual report and accounts for the year 2007-08 which was published today, in accordance with schedule 7, paragraph 5(2) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998.

This is the ninth annual report published by the Commission.

Transport

EU Transport Council

I will attend the second Transport Council of the French presidency, which takes place in Brussels on 9 December.

The Council will be asked to reach a general approach on a regulation amending the four regulations adopted in 2004, which established the single European sky (SES). As well as consolidating the original SES package, the proposal aims to strengthen the network approach and introduces environmental performance. It offers a pragmatic solution to the drive towards improved performance of the European air traffic management system. While reflecting the need to set performance targets at an EU level, it allows member states to generate their own national plans to contribute to the targets. Furthermore, it recognises the need to examine pan-European network aspects by introducing the role of a network management function to facilitate greater co-operation in the use of scarce resources. In general terms, the UK is content with the draft general approach text being put to the Council.

The Council will be given a progress report and may be asked to reach a partial general approach on an amending regulation extending the responsibilities and competencies of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). EASA was initially responsible only for the airworthiness of aircraft. Its responsibilities were widened to include air operations, flight crew licensing and the oversight of third-country aircraft earlier in 2008. The present draft regulation extends EASA’s responsibilities to the safety of aerodromes, air traffic management (ATM) and air navigation services (ANS), as part of the single European sky initiative. Responsibility for implementing the rules is to remain with member states. The Government broadly support the proposal to extend EASA’s remit, but we consider that there are a number of technical areas where the proposal could be improved. These include clearer applicability and scope for aerodrome safety and a clearer licensing framework for aerodrome operators. The negotiations to date have focused on the ATM/ANS aspects of the proposal, and member states are keen to ensure that the regulation builds on the existing regulatory system established under the single European sky initiative.

The final item of the aviation agenda is in external relations. The Council will be asked to adopt two decisions authorising the Commission to open negotiations towards comprehensive aviation agreements with Tunisia and Algeria. The UK supports the mandates which are in line with others given to the Commission recently to negotiate comprehensive aviation agreements with a number of Mediterranean countries.

In the first of two items on land transport, the Council will be invited to reach a general approach on a directive amending the 1999 directive on charging of heavy goods vehicles for the use of infrastructure—the Eurovignette directive. The UK is broadly supportive of the intention behind the directive, which is to allow member states more flexibility to apply the “polluter pays” principle within any lorry charges they may choose to introduce. Some member states are arguing that it is too soon to reach agreement so the likelihood of an outcome is uncertain. The UK opposes the Commission’s proposal for mandatory earmarking of revenues for transport and associated spending.

The Council will be given a progress report on the proposed directive on cross-border enforcement in the field of road safety. This was debated initially at the October Council, when the UK expressed its view that it should be a third pillar—Justice and Home Affairs—measure. The majority of member states were in agreement with this, and the UK has continued to take this line in Council negotiations. The UK view is that the progress report should make it clear that full consideration will be given to a third-pillar approach. This represents the best prospect for real progress towards achieving the improvements in road safety that we all want to see.

The presidency plans to put draft conclusions to the Council, arising from the Commission’s communications on the greening of transport, the strategy for the internalisation of external costs in transport and the reduction of rail noise on existing rolling stock. I expect to be able to agree to the conclusions.

The Council will be asked to adopt a resolution on the establishment of a European regional data centre for the long-range identification and tracking (LRIT) of ships. This will be an implementation in Europe of a safety of life at sea (SOLAS) regulation, adopted by IMO in 2006. I expect to be able to agree to the resolution.

MOT Scheme

I have today published an analysis of the costs and benefits of the MOT scheme in response to a Davidson review recommendation on the subject.

Our analysis suggests that a significant number of additional road traffic accidents would be likely if MOT test frequency was reduced. This is primarily because the annual MOT failure rate is already high—around 35 per cent.—and if we were to reduce test frequency there is a very real risk that the number of unroadworthy cars would increase significantly. In turn, the number of road casualties would inevitably increase.

Clearly any significant increase in road traffic accidents or in the number of road casualties would be a wholly unacceptable outcome; and, for that reason, our view is that the MOT test frequency should remain unchanged.

I have placed copies of the document in the Library of the House. Copies are also available in the Vote Office and Printed Paper Office.