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Written Statements

Volume 487: debated on Wednesday 28 January 2009

Written Ministerial Statements

Wednesday 28 January 2009

Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform

Chair Appointment (Royal Mail Holdings)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, Lord Mandelson has made the following statement:

I am pleased to announce today the appointment of Donald Brydon CBE as the new Chairman of Royal Mail Holdings plc. He will take up his appointment in March 2009. Donald Brydon is currently Chairman of Smiths Group plc and the London Metal Exchange. He will be joining the Royal Mail Holdings Board as a non-executive director prior to taking up his appointment as Chairman.


Child Poverty

The Treasury, the Department for Children, Schools and Families, and the Department for Work and Pensions are today publishing a consultation document on proposals to legislate on the Government’s commitment to eradicate child poverty by 2020.

Every child deserves the best start in life. Where children grow up on low income, suffering either material deprivation or falling too far behind their peers, they can be disadvantaged throughout their lives. Child poverty doubled in the 20 years from the late 1970s to the mid 1990s, leaving far too many British children deprived of important opportunities in life.

That is why in 1999 the Government set an ambitious target to end child poverty in a generation. This commitment has already driven considerable progress across Government. The number of children in absolute poverty has halved and 600,000 children have been lifted out of relative poverty to date. Had the Government done nothing other than simply uprate the tax and benefit system, there would have been 2 million more children in relative poverty than there are today.

All families have benefited from increases in support since 1997; households with children are on average £2,100 better off in 2009-10 and families with children in the poorest fifth of the population are £4,400 better off as a result of personal tax and benefit changes.

But too many children still suffer from poverty or disadvantage. That is why we have committed to enshrine in legislation our historic pledge to eradicate child poverty by 2020. The consultation document outlines how the Government will use primary and secondary legislation to set a framework for achieving the Government’s 2020 aims, including setting targets for the future. It will also set a requirement for Government to report annually on progress. Improved accountability and a clear and comprehensive definition of progress will provide a platform for a renewed approach to break the cycle of poverty.

We believe that tackling child poverty and confirming our commitment to ending child poverty by 2020 is even more important during difficult economic times. Giving families real help now is important to help people deal with the challenges from the global credit crunch. But it is also about preventing the kind of long-term unemployment and worklessness caused by past recessions, which scarred communities and pushed up child poverty across the country.

The Government are determined that no child is left behind, and we create a fairer society for the future. This requires ensuring that all children have a good start in life and that the causes and consequences of poverty are tackled.

The consultation document sets out the four key elements of the child poverty strategy:

more parents in work that pays and allows them to balance work and family life;

financial support that is responsive to families’ situations;

improvements in children’s life chances so that poverty in childhood does not translate into poor outcomes; and

safe, cohesive communities that support children to thrive.

Alongside this document the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families is publishing “Next Steps for Early Learning and Childcare”, and the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is publishing “Realising Potential: Developing Personalised Conditionality and Support”. A discussion paper on next steps in implementing the Gregg review”.

Copies of the document are available in the Vote Office and have been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.

Children, Schools and Families

Next Steps for Early Learning and Childcare

I am today announcing the publication of a new, cross-government strategy document “Next steps for early learning and childcare: building on the 10-Year Strategy” for England.

Five years into our 10-Year Strategy, it is the right time to take stock, identify and address new and future challenges as we move progressively towards the establishment of early learning and childcare as a modern, universal public service for all families.

We have come a long way in delivering on the agenda that we set ourselves in 2004. Thanks to hard work across the sector, parents now have access to more flexible, affordable and better quality early learning and childcare than ever before, and many more families are benefiting from new rights and services. It will take time for the children who have had these opportunities to demonstrate the long-term benefits, but there are already signs that changes could help promote the social mobility of future generations. The latest foundation stage profile results show that 21,000 more children achieved a good level of development at age 5 than the previous year. And the lowest achievers are starting to catch up; the gap between their achievement and their peers has narrowed for the first time.

We are determined to keep improving early learning and childcare because these are crucial long-term investments. Good quality early learning and childcare is vital for ensuring all children, but especially the most disadvantaged, reach their full potential. It supports parents into employment—which is the best way out of poverty. And it relieves the time and emotional pressures that families face in balancing work and home life. In a time of global economic downturn, where parents face increased financial and emotional pressures, these priorities are as important as ever.

Alongside the recent New Opportunities White Paper, this document sets out some clear commitments and firm proposals. In other areas we have identified the case for action and need to develop plans through discussion and consultation. We want this to be the beginning of a wider conversation with parents, people who work in the sector, providers, agencies, children and local government—about how we can meet these challenges. That is why, the Government are also launching today a consultation on our plans to enshrine our historic goal of eradicating child poverty into law—“Ending Child Poverty: Making it Happen”—and publishing a discussion paper on a new framework to help many more parents with younger children and employment and support allowance claimants to prepare for work—“Personalised Conditionality And Support”, the Gregg review.

We will place copies of the document “Next Steps in Early Learning and Childcare” in the Libraries of both Houses.

Home Department

Metropolitan Police Commissioner

I am pleased to announce that Her Majesty the Queen has approved the appointment of Sir Paul Stephenson QPM as the next Metropolitan Police Commissioner. I made my recommendation to Her Majesty having regard to the recommendations made to me by the Metropolitan Police Authority and representations from the Mayor of London.

Sir Paul has a strong track record of delivery and a clear vision for leading the Metropolitan Police Service and delivering for the public both in London and nationally.

Northern Ireland

Consultative Group on the Past (Report)

The Consultative Group on the Past will today be publishing a report, setting out the conclusions from the group’s work on how Northern Ireland society can best address the legacy of the events of the past 40 years in order to help continue to build a successful shared future.

The Government recognise the huge importance of this work and welcome the independent report. Dealing effectively with the legacy of the past is one of the most demanding issues facing Northern Ireland today. It is of fundamental importance to the people of Northern Ireland as we find a way to build a shared future which avoids being overwhelmed by the past.

The group has listened to a wide range of differing voices with great care and sensitivity. I am grateful to Lord Eames and Denis Bradley, and to all the members of the group for their work. The Government commend the group for its integrity and commitment.

The report makes a number of recommendations to which British and Irish Governments, and other stakeholders, will need to give very detailed and careful consideration. These are important issues. We all need to reflect carefully on the proposals.

I would also thank all those organisations, community groups and individuals who engaged with the work of the group over the past 18 months.

I have arranged to have copies of the group’s report placed in both Libraries of the Houses of Parliament.


RTFO Levels (Response to Consultation)

My noble Friend Lord Adonis, the Minister of State for the Department for Transport has made the following ministerial statement:

I have today published the Government’s response to part one of the consultation on the draft Renewable Transport Fuel Obligations (Amendment) Order 2009, (including the addendum to the consultation). The consultation, which closed on 17 December 2008, sought views on provisions to slow down the rate at which the renewable transport fuel obligation (RTFO) increases year on year as recommended by the Gallagher review, adding two new renewable fuels to those eligible for RTFO certificates and revising the definition of relevant hydrocarbon oil.

Having considered the responses received to the consultation, the Government continue to believe that there is a need to progress with caution with regard to obligation levels.

The Government have now decided to introduce legislation setting an obligation level for 2009-10 of 3.25 per cent., which is 0.25 per cent. higher than the Gallagher recommendation, and thereafter maintaining the planned increases in line with the Gallagher recommendations to reach 5 per cent. in 2013-14. A draft order to amend the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligations Order 2007 (2007/3072 will be laid in Parliament shortly and will be subject to the affirmative procedure. It is our intention that if the order completes the necessary stages it will be made in time to come into force at the start of the next obligation year in April 2009.

Our decision on next year’s obligation level takes into account the views expressed in response to the consultation. In particular this decision reflects concerns about the effects of the discrepancy in the definition of relevant hydrocarbon oil in the 2007 order. That definition excludes any fossil fuel which is blended with renewable fuel before the duty point. The result is that less fossil fuel than was intended is taken into account in calculating suppliers’ obligations, and therefore less renewable fuel is required to be supplied than was intended. My earlier statement of 13 November 2008, Official Report, column 67WS explained the background behind this issue.

We intend that the draft amendment order will contain provision to revise the definition of relevant hydrocarbon oil for the next obligation period. To avoid problems with retrospective effect, we are not proposing that the amendment should purport to have effect for the current obligation period which started in April last year. The full effect of the discrepancy issue on the volume of biofuel supplied in the first obligation year (2008-09) will not be known until after the end of this year. Our intention is that by setting this level the overall amounts of biofuel supplied in the first two years are still broadly consistent with the Gallagher recommendations; that is, 5.5 per cent. (2.5% + 3%).

We also intend to add both biobutanol and renewable diesel to the renewable fuels eligible for certificates under the scheme and these fuels will be defined as they are in the draft order included in the consultation document. We will continue to keep the fuels covered by the scheme under review in light of emerging new technologies.

In looking forward, under the renewable energy directive (RED) the UK will be required by 2020 to meet a target of 10 per cent. renewable energy in transport. Our current mechanism for delivering renewable energy in this sector is the RTFO. The Government intend to consult later this year about the further amendment of the RTFO that will take these commitments into account, including the trajectories of the UK targets, and further work on the sustainability of biofuels. This will form part of Government policy as we draw up our renewable energy strategy and action plan for meeting the UK’s 2020 renewable energy target, which needs to be submitted to the European Commission during 2010. We will be engaging with stakeholders throughout this process to draw on their views and experience.

Copies of the Government’s response to part one of the consultation (including the addendum) have been placed in the L-ibrary of the House and are available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. The Government’s response to part two of the consultation, which sought views on longer term issues concerning the future transposition of the renewable energy directive and the fuel quality directive, will be published in due course.

Work and Pensions

Gregg Review

In December 2008 Professor Paul Gregg published his review on the effectiveness of the balance of expectations and support for working age benefit claimants. This was entitled “Realising Potential: A Vision for Personalised Conditionality and Support”. Copies are available in the Library of the House.

Today my department is publishing a discussion paper setting out further details about how it intends to take forward the recommendations of that review to help many more parents with younger children and employment and support allowance claimants to prepare for work.

We believe that developing the ‘Progression to Work’ approach, proposed by the Gregg Review, will support families, promote employment and help eradicate child poverty. Therefore this discussion paper outlines our latest thinking on how this approach will be designed and tested out. The framework we plan to establish is one where more claimants:

Actively engage with their adviser on an ongoing basis;

Consider, discuss and agree an Action Plan comprising activities they think will improve their prospects of moving back into work; and

Undertake these agreed work preparation activities as part of their own journey towards employment.

This means creating a model where advisers have the necessary skills and capabilities to encourage claimants to co-own, co-produce and take responsibility for their journey back to work.

We want to test the full model proposed by Professor Gregg of higher support and expectations. Because we know that the availability of childcare is so central to enabling parents to realise their aspirations for paid work, we will pay for any additional childcare that claimants need to carry out their action plan. We will also test out whether offering an improved financial incentive for parents to try out work supports them make the full transition from benefits to work.

The current Welfare Reform Bill aims to create the necessary legislation for this approach, initially through a series of pathfinders, subject to parliamentary approval. These pathfinders will cover around a fifth of new and existing ESA claimants and a similar proportion of parents with younger children. Parents with a youngest child aged between one and two will be expected to engage with an adviser and agree an action plan, but undertaking work preparation activities will be voluntary.

This paper is aimed at stakeholder organisations and other interested parties to enable further, more detailed discussions to take place as we move through policy development towards implementation.

Copies of “Realising Potential: developing personalised conditionality and support: A discussion paper on next steps in implementing the Gregg Review” will be placed in the Library of the House.