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Written Statements

Volume 494: debated on Thursday 25 June 2009

Written Ministerial Statements

Thursday 25 June 2009


Double Taxation Convention (United Kingdom and Belgium)

A new protocol to the Double Taxation Convention with Belgium was signed on 24 June 2009. The text of the protocol has been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses and made available on HM Revenue and Customs’ website. The text will be scheduled to a draft Order in Council and laid before the House of Commons in due course.

Communities and Local Government

Firebuy Ltd

I should like to inform the House that, in the light of our review of national procurement in the fire and rescue service (FRS) in England, we propose to make a number of changes affecting Firebuy Ltd, the professional buying organisation for the service.

Firebuy Ltd was established as a non-departmental public body on 30 March 2006 to deliver the 2005-08 national procurement strategy for the FRS. Within the current arrangements, Firebuy has been effective in establishing national fire-specific procurement for vehicles and equipment and has delivered benefits for the service.

There is a continuing need to drive procurement efficiency at a national level in the FRS, particularly in the light of targets for collaborative procurement set by the Government’s operational efficiency programme and we believe that a national procurement body represents the best way to deliver fire-specific collaborative procurement. This will be reflected in the revised national procurement strategy, which we intend to publish in July, taking account of responses to the consultation last year and the recommendations of the operational efficiency programme.

However, going forward there is a need to consider the future role and structure of the body delivering FRS national procurement, particularly given that the Department must also make longer term provision for managing ongoing FiReControl and Firelink contracts. We propose, therefore, that Firebuy’s functions should in future be carried out within a larger organisation, integrating national procurement with the management of the service contracts for the Fire And Resilience programme (Firelink, FiReControl and New Dimension). Firebuy already performs this function in respect of New Dimension. More detailed proposals for in-service management of the Fire and Resilience programme will be set out in a consultation paper, which we will publish shortly.

I am grateful to the current chair and board of Firebuy for the work they have done and for agreeing to have had their terms of office extended to November 2009 while the review was under way. A new board for the NDPB will be required from that date to reflect the new role of the organisation. Recruitment of the board will commence in the summer of 2009, including representation from the key stakeholders.

Energy and Climate Change

EU Energy Council

I am writing to update the House about the recent Energy Council in Luxembourg on 12 June. The UK was represented by Andy Lebrecht, the UK’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU.

As expected, the Council discussed and agreed the Commission’s proposal for a revision of the Council Directive on Oil Stocking (Council Document 15910/08). The directive will align the EU to International Energy Agency regulations, and increase the EU’s resilience to disruptions in oil supply.

This was followed by a report from the presidency on progress on the three energy efficiency directives currently being negotiated by the Council and Parliament. These are related specifically to Labelling (Council Document 15906/08), Tyres (Council Document 15920/08), and Buildings (Council Document 15929/08).

Finally, the Commission and presidency presented information on a number of developments in EU external energy relations, including those with Russia, Ukraine, the Energy Community Treaty, OPEC, and the G8.

Over lunch, Ministers had the first opportunity to discuss the potential location of the agency for the co-operation of energy regulators which will be established by the third package of legislation on the EU’s internal energy market. Slovakia, Romania and Slovenia have all put themselves forwards as candidates. As all received roughly equal support from member states, further discussions will now take place.

Road to Copenhagen (Public Awareness)

An ambitious international agreement to tackle climate change will affect everyone in the UK, and is vital for our future security and prosperity. I am today publishing a pamphlet—“the Road to Copenhagen”—aimed at raising public awareness of the international negotiations which culminate later this year at Copenhagen, and the key issues being debated. In addition, the pamphlet provides practical advice for people on the actions they can take in their own lives to reduce their own carbon footprint and make a contribution towards reducing carbon emissions. I will be making arrangements for the pamphlet to be widely disseminated. Tomorrow I will be publishing a detailed document explaining the UK’s aims for the Copenhagen negotiations.

Copies of the pamphlet will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UK Sustainable Development Commission

The Prime Minister has approved the appointment of Will Day as the new chair of the UK Sustainable Development Commission (SDC). This part-time appointment will take effect on 27 July when Jonathan Porritt steps down after nine years as chair.

Will Day has a strong background in international development. He is the former chief executive of Care International and has spent a significant amount of his career based in Africa. In the UK he has held many roles, including: chairman of BBC Children in Need, external adviser to the BBC Corporate Social Responsibility Board and non-executive director of South Kent NHS Hospitals Trust.

Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Sciences (Performance Targets)

I have set the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) the following performance targets for 2009-10.

Service delivery

Customer satisfaction to exceed 82 per cent.

To provide high standard of services to the satisfaction of customers. Measured through weighted average of customer response to post-contract survey that covers seven aspects of service quality. Incorporates project delivery metrics.

Science quality indicators to exceed 75 per cent.

To enhance scientific capability and reputation, using indicators grouped around research, wider dissemination and use of our science, and scientific capability. Measures include customer surveys, numbers of peer reviewed scientific papers and investment in new science.

Value for public money

Recover the full cost of our services

To demonstrate financial sustainability through sound operational financial management and appropriate investment in CEFAS’ future, including the delivery of CEFAS’ transformation plan. Measured through achieving an audited break-even result in 2009-10.

Effectiveness gains

To deliver £0.5 million of effectiveness gains, generated through a combination of non-DEFRA income growth, improvements in project effectiveness and reduced overhead costs.

Capacity and capability

Sustainability indicators to exceed 75 per cent.

To demonstrate a healthy and safe working environment, together with progress towards being an exemplar for sustainable development, through a range of indicators.

Staff satisfaction survey to exceed 65 per cent.

To respect and help the agency’s people to develop. Measured by an annual questionnaire to staff, using a weighted scale for the eight survey categories.

Further details are given in the CEFAS business plan 2009-10, a copy of which will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Pitt Review (Progress Report)

I have today placed in the House Library copies of an update report detailing the progress the Government have made in implementing the recommendations contained in Sir Michael Pitt’s report on the 2007 summer floods. A copy of the report is also on the DEFRA web site at:

Significant progress has been made. We have published a draft Flood and Water Management Bill for consultation, and will develop firm legislative proposals in the light of comments from Parliament and consultees. However, in advance of the Bill becoming law, we have taken immediate action to help communities at risk of flooding. Since the summer 2007 floods we have for example:

Increased Government funding from £600 million in 2007-8 to a forecast of £780 million for 2010-11, with an additional £20 million brought forward into this year’s budgets to allow an early start to projects that will benefit 27,000 homes when complete.

Completed 85 flood defence schemes, protecting nearly 58,000 additional homes in England. Operating authorities are currently on course to exceed delivery targets and provide better protection to 160,000 homes over the three years to March 2011.

Signed up 136,000 additional people to receive flood warnings in England and Wales.

Set up a £7.7 million flood forecasting centre, jointly run by the Environment Agency and Met Office, which is already providing important services to local authorities and emergency responders, helping them to be better prepared for potential flooding.

Announced a £5 million grant scheme for householders for property-level flood protection like air bricks and door boards. I am announcing today the results of the first round of this scheme which will provide greater flood protection to nearly 600 households in England.

Announced funding for 27 places for local authority participants in the existing Environment Agency foundation degree programmes and other local flood risk management training. This will help ensure that local communities have the expertise they need to help them protect themselves from flooding.

Provided the first allocations to six local authorities from the £15 million funding allocated to help the highest priority areas manage surface water flood risk. Progress on implementing the first tranche as well as next steps on the remaining funds will be announced later this summer.

Announced £1 million funding for three projects to demonstrate how land management change and working with natural processes can help protect against flooding.

Published a long-term investment strategy, the Environment Agency’s assessment of the costs and benefits of investment over the next 25 years given the latest projections of climate change. I am keen to encourage a public debate on how future funding needs are best met.

Published a new policy statement on appraisal of flood and coastal erosion risk management, to ensure better value for money in the investment decisions made.

The Government have today announced that around 99 per cent. of those displaced by the summer 2007 floods are now back in their homes. We sympathise with those who for whatever reason have not yet been able to return and are committed to ensuring the remaining families get back into their homes as soon as possible.

The Pitt progress report explains how we will complete implementation of Sir Michael’s recommendations, with target dates. The risk of flooding remains and last week’s publication of the UKCP09 climate projections underlines how it will increase in the future as a result of climate change. The Government remain determined to make this country better able to anticipate and deal with the impacts of flooding. I will continue to keep the House informed of progress through future progress reports, the next of which will be due around the turn of the year.

Former Central Science Laboratory (Report and Accounts)

The 2008-09 annual report and accounts for the Central Science Laboratory was laid before Parliament today.

This is the final report and accounts for the Central Science Laboratory which from 1 April 2009 became part of the Food and Environment Research Agency.

Home Department

Proceeds of Crime Act 2002

I am pleased to announce that the 2008-09 annual report of the appointed person under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 has been laid before Parliament today. The appointed person is an independent person who scrutinises the use of the search power introduced to support the measures in the Act to seize and forfeit criminal cash.

The report gives the appointed person’s opinion as to the circumstances and manner in which the search powers conferred by the Act are being exercised. I am pleased that the appointed person, Andrew Clarke, has expressed satisfaction with the operation of the search power and has found that there is nothing to suggest that the procedures are not being followed in accordance with the Act.

From 1 April 2008 to the end of March 2009 over £106 million in cash was seized by law enforcement agencies in England, Wales and Northern Ireland under powers in the Act. The seizures are subject to further investigation, and the cash is subject to further judicially approved detention, before forfeiture in the magistrates court. These powers are a valuable tool in the fight against crime and the report shows that the way they are used has been, and will continue to be, closely monitored.

Copies of the report will be available in the Vote Office.

Youth Crime Action Plan

In conjunction with the Secretary of State for Justice and the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, I will today publish the summary of responses form the Youth Crime Action Plan consultation.

We received 86 responses, which are summarised in the document, with an outline of the initial Government response to the issues raised. In due course we will report progress on delivering the commitments in the YCAP, and next steps.

Copies of the consultation will be placed in the Library and the Vote Office.


Freedom of Information Act 2000

Today I have deposited copies of the “Freedom of Information Act 2000—Fourth Annual Report on the operation of the Freedom of Information Act in Central Government —2008” in the Libraries of both Houses. Copies are also available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office and are available on the internet at informationquarterly.htm

This is the fourth annual report analysing the performance of central Government in the fourth full year since the commencement of the Freedom of Information Act.

Today I have also deposited copies of the “Freedom of Information Act 2000— Statistics on implementation in Central Government: Ql—January - March 2009” in the Libraries of both Houses. Copies are also available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.

This is the quarterly monitoring statistics report analysing the performance of central Government in the fifth full year of freedom of information.

Prime Minister

National Security Strategy

I am today laying before the House the first annual update to the National Security Strategy of the United Kingdom Security for the Next Generation (cm 7590), and the Government’s first Cyber Security Strategy, Safety, Security and Resilience in Cyber Space (cm 7642).

The purpose of the national security strategy, published for the first time in March last year, is to bring together in a single strategic framework the Government’s analysis of, and response to, the full range of national security risks—recognising that today more than ever these risks, and the underlying drivers, are increasingly interconnected and require a more co-ordinated approach.

The 2009 update fulfils the Government’s commitment to report on activity and progress over the past year, from counter-terrorism, to military and civilian support to Afghanistan, to peacekeeping and conflict resolution in a range of countries, and to combating H1N1 influenza.

The report also updates our assessment of the security challenges facing the United Kingdom, including a detailed analysis of the implications of the current global economic downturn, which has shown—and this view is shared by our key partners and by external experts—that so far the nature of the security landscape has not altered fundamentally, although we will need to remain vigilant, especially against the dangers of instability in already poor regions, or any trend towards protectionism. The events of the past year have also reinforced the importance of a strongly internationalist approach, and the strategy update sets out detailed and ambitious plans for strengthening the international response to the long-term global security risks arising from climate change, poverty, and energy shortages, building on the concerted global action to stabilise the world economy over the past year.

The report covers the different ‘domains’ in which security challenges must be addressed, and identifies cyber space as one increasingly important domain in which individual, commercial and state security can be threatened, whether by other states, or terrorist or criminal networks. We are therefore publishing, alongside the overall strategy update, the UK’s first national cyber security strategy, outlining improvements to Government structures, additional funding, measures to enhance our ability to detect attack, better risk assessments, programmes to develop cyber security industrial capabilities and workforce skills, and support and advice for individual citizens.

The Cabinet Committee on national security, international relations and development oversees delivery of the national security strategy. It takes advice from the expert national security forum. Parliamentary scrutiny is provided by the Joint Committee on the national security strategy, which will start work this summer. The strategy is a comprehensive and transparent account of the risks the UK faces and the action we are taking to tackle them, and provides a basis for Parliamentary and wider public debate on our national security priorities.



My right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for the Department for Transport, has made the following ministerial statement.

I am today announcing that the UK Government are in the course of concluding their negotiations with SNCF and SNCB to incorporate the existing tri-national Eurostar operations into a single company. The UK Government, via London and Continental Railways Ltd, will have a substantial minority shareholding in the new Eurostar company. Subject to further work and final agreement, this shareholding will be in the order of 40 per cent.

Eurostar is the pre-eminent international passenger train operator. This is recognised by the record 9 million passengers that used the service to travel between London and the continent last year, following the opening of the High Speed 1 line from St Pancras International station. Eurostar is not only very successful service, but has also saved around 40,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions as a result of attracting extra travellers who would otherwise have travelled by plane since the move to High Speed 1.

The Government’s aim, as shareholders, have always been to provide Eurostar with the stability and sustainability to develop its services on a properly stand-alone commercial basis, operating in a newly competitive market.

The proposals under finalisation with SNCF and SNCB are designed to achieve those objectives.

The principal part of the discussions to be concluded is to convert the present Eurostar operation, which is an unincorporated joint venture operating cooperatively but separately in the three partner countries, into a single incorporated company. As such the UK will contribute to the new venture the assets and interests of Eurostar (UK) Ltd, which is currently a wholly-owned subsidiary of London and Continental Railways Ltd.

The company will have a strong board with an independent chairman and independent non-executive representation, as well as UK and other partner shareholder representatives. There will be proper shareholder rights and protections for the UK as a minority shareholder.

The final terms remain subject to further work being undertaken by the Eurostar management and final commercial agreement between the parties and a confirmation that SNCB will join the new venture. I would expect to make a further announcement on these matters later this year.