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Written Statements

Volume 497: debated on Monday 12 October 2009

Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 12 October 2009

Treasury

Delegated Legislation (Counter-terrorism)

The Government have today laid before the House a statutory instrument under the Counter-terrorism Act 2008 containing a direction requiring the UK financial services sector to cease all business with the Iranian Bank Mellat and the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines. This means that from today, financial and credit institutions will no longer be able to enter into new transactions or business relationships with these entities nor to continue with existing transactions or business relationships unless they are licensed by HM Treasury. Consistent with the commitment provided to the House during the passage of the Act, I would like to set out the reasons behind our decision.

The Treasury is satisfied, as required by the Act, that activity in Iran that facilitates the development or production of nuclear weapons poses a significant risk to the national interests of the UK. Iran continues to fail to meet its international obligations. Most notably, its nuclear programme presents an immediate challenge to the global non-proliferation regime. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA—the UN body charged with monitoring Iran’s activities and ensuring that no nuclear material is being diverted to non-civilian applications) is being refused the access it seeks by Iran, which also declines to answer questions put to it by the agency’s staff about alleged studies suggesting a military aspect to Iran’s programme. As a result, the IAEA director general has stated that he is unable to verify Iran’s nuclear programme is for exclusively peaceful purposes.

Iran’s ongoing improvement of its ballistic missile capabilities also continues to cause international concern. Its failure to answer questions from the IAEA about possible military dimensions to its nuclear programme increase concerns that its ballistic missile programme represents a potential nuclear delivery system.

The UK has for many years been clear that we would prefer a more productive relationship with Iran, and for Iran to take its place as a responsible member of the international community. We continue to work through the E3+3 and urge Iran to accept our, and US, offers of engagement in order to achieve a diplomatic resolution of the nuclear issue. The Government welcome the talks recently held between the E3+3 and Iran.

However, Iran continues to pursue its proliferation sensitive nuclear and ballistic missile activities in defiance of five UN Security Council Resolutions.

We cannot and will not ignore specific activities undertaken by Iranian companies which we know to be facilitating activity identified by the UN as being of concern, particularly where such activities have the potential to affect the UK’s interests.

On the particular entities in question, vessels of the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) have transported goods for both Iran’s ballistic missile and nuclear programmes.

Similarly, Bank Mellat has provided banking services to a UN listed organisation connected to Iran’s proliferation sensitive activities, and been involved in transactions related to financing Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programme.

The direction to cease business will therefore reduce the risk of the UK financial sector being used, unknowingly or otherwise, to facilitate Iran’s proliferation sensitive activities.

Double Taxation Convention (United Kingdom and Austria)

A new protocol to the double taxation convention with Austria was signed on 11 September 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.

Double Taxation Agreement (United Kingdom and Malaysia)

A new protocol to the double taxation agreement with Malaysia was signed on 22 September 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.

Equitable Life

On 18 August Sir John Chadwick issued an interim report that set out an approach for assessing relative loss, the definitive questions he believes need to be addressed in taking forward that approach; and the principles he proposes to adopt to determine the appropriate proportion of losses to apportion to the public bodies.

He has extended his original response deadline, to 16 October, with a view to allowing time for interested parties to make responses following the outcome of the judgment of the divisional court in the judicial review proceedings brought against HM Treasury in relation to its response to the parliamentary ombudsman’s report into the prudential regulation of Equitable Life. The timing of the judgment is a matter for the court, but is expected to be handed down soon. The Treasury will consider the judgment carefully and respond to Sir John’s interim report as soon as it is in a position to do so, recognising that speed continues to be of the essence in this matter.

I will update the House as soon as it is possible to do, after the court’s judgment is promulgated.

National Reform Programme 2009

I wish to inform the House of the publication on 8 October 2009 of the “UK’s National Reform Programme (NRP) 2009”, copies of which have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

As part of the EU’s Lisbon Strategy for jobs and growth, the UK must present to the European Commission by 15 October 2009 its National Reform Programme (NRP) 2009, setting out UK progress on economic reform.

The NRP responds to the recommendations the European Council agreed in March 2009 for the UK on fiscal sustainability and skills and employment, and the Council’s points to watch for the UK on housing supply and R and D. The NRP 2009 also reports on UK progress in the areas of the business environment and climate change, energy policy, and sustainable development, which were re-emphasised by the European Council in March 2008 as priority areas over the 2008-10 cycle of the Lisbon Strategy. Reporting is in the context of the current downturn and medium-term reform measures, in line with the European economic recovery plan (EERP). The NRP 2009 does not make any new policy announcements: rather, it reports on the implementation of existing reforms, and looks forward to announced future policies.

Business, Innovation and Skllls

National Minimum Wage

I am pleased to announce that the Government have written to the Low Pay Commission setting out the non-economic evidence on the national minimum wage. The evidence addresses enforcement, publicity and awareness and policy issues including apprenticeships, homeworkers and young workers.

The Government will be submitting their economic evidence to the Commission later this year.

A copy of the non-economic evidence will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses and will be available from the BIS website at: www.bis.gov.uk.

Communities and Local Government

Home Loss Payments (2009)

The Government have decided not to amend the thresholds for Home Loss payments in 2009. In previous years, since 2003, new thresholds have come into force on 1 September.

Home Loss payments are part of the land compensation system and are paid to owner-occupiers and tenants following compulsory purchase or displacement by housing orders or estate redevelopment. Owner-occupiers receive 10 per cent. of the value of their property—subject to maximum and minimum thresholds—and tenants receive a flat-rate equal to the minimum payment for owner-occupiers.

The thresholds have risen steadily until 2008, when the maximum payment was £47,000 and the minimum and flat-rate were £4,700. The 2009 review indicated that the thresholds could be reduced to £41,000 and £4,100—slightly above the 2006 levels.

The thresholds and flat-rate mainly bite at the minimum level, as very few high-value properties are taken in the normal run of compulsory purchase orders. The people most affected would be those owner-occupiers with properties worth less than £47,000 and tenants receiving the flat-rate, typically those in clearance areas or estate redevelopment schemes by registered social landlords.

The people caught up in these schemes are quite vulnerable, and the Government believe that reducing their home loss payments by £600 (from £4,700 to £4,100) would make life more difficult for those who are already in a very difficult situation. We have therefore decided not to reduce the thresholds this year.

Defence

Apache AH Mk1 Future Support Arrangements

Apache is currently providing vital battle-winning capability in support of UK and coalition forces on operations in Afghanistan. Building on the existing support arrangements in place, on 6 October I announced the award of a through-life integrated operational support (IOS) contract to AgustaWestland for implementation of the Apache Helicopter Future Support Arrangements (FSA). This IOS contract is an output-based contract where specific levels of support are required to be achieved by industry while allowing industry to decide the optimum way to provide that support. Under the contract, one of the key areas will see AgustaWestland increasing the availability of the Apache helicopters from the current level to over 70 per cent. which will be of significant benefit to front-line users. In addition the contract will reduce through-life costs through AgustaWestland implementing continuous improvements in the service provided.

This contract will build on the existing effective and efficient engineering and logistical support for the Apache AH Mkl helicopter to the frontline. The contract is valued at £439 million for the period to March 2014, with a price review thereafter, and transfers to industry further responsibility for Apache AH Mkl maintenance and support and associated risk of delivering the required output. The contract is forecast to deliver savings in the region of £50 million over the first contract period as compared to the projected costs of current support arrangements, with the potential to deliver further savings through life. This will be achieved whilst also increasing aircraft availability.

The contract represents another step forward in the helicopter plans set out in the MOD-AgustaWestland strategic partnering arrangement, strengthens our relationship with the industry, and will increase aircraft availability levels despite reducing through-life costs. Progress with this IOS contract builds on the similar support contracts already in place for the Sea King and Merlin helicopters that have also been previously awarded to AgustaWestland.

Overall the Apache IOS contract provides excellent value for money for the taxpayer and delivers improved and efficient support to the frontline.

Energy and Climate Change

Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme

The UK Climate Change Act makes the UK the first country to set a long-term legal framework for reducing emissions over the next four decades. The Act has demonstrated decisive international leadership, showing the UK is committed to taking up its responsibility for reducing global emissions. As part of this commitment, Government will introduce the carbon reduction commitment, an energy efficiency instrument, next April. The CRC will help large public and business sector organisations reduce their emissions through improved energy efficiency and thereby save £1 billion each year by 2020. I also intend that CRC will deliver emissions reductions of more than 4 million tonnes of CO2 per year by that time. Given the primary focus of the scheme on energy efficiency, CRC will now be known as the CRC Energy Efficiency scheme (CRC). Last Wednesday, the UK’s Administrations published the Government response to the third consultation on the scheme which was held between March and June 2009. That consultation related to the scheme’s regulatory basis. The response finalises the policy for the scheme before its launch in April 2010.

Without new policies, emissions from public and business sectors will not achieve the carbon reductions we require over coming years. This group of organisations in particular has significant potential to achieve cost-effective energy efficiency savings. There are clear benefits from positive, immediate action to tackle climate change and investment that takes place in the next 10-20 years will have a profound effect on the climate in the second half of this century. Government are committed to ambitious targets to reduce the UK’s CO2 emissions, and this will require contributions from all sectors of the economy and from across all parts of the UK.

The basic trajectory of CRC remains. The first introductory phase of the scheme until 2013 will have an unlimited number of allowances. Thereafter Government will set the number of allowances, which will decrease year on year to ensure that the potential for efficiency savings are realised. I will be taking the advice of the Committee on climate change before setting this cap in 2012, but anticipate that the scheme will ensure that large organisations play their full role in contributing to our emissions reductions of at least 34 per cent. by 2020.

The UK Government have worked together with devolved Administrations and stakeholders in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to ensure that the CRC is in keeping with our shared long term vision for a “light touch” yet robust scheme, which provides both financial and reputational incentives for these sectors to increase energy efficiency and deliver emissions reductions.

In light of feedback from the consultation, I am pleased to announce that I have adjusted the scheme to ensure that the financial impact from the purchase of allowances will be similar in all years. I have decided that the retrospective purchase of allowances for 2010-11 will no longer be required. Participants will be required only to correctly report their emissions in the first year. I have therefore halved the financial impact in the first year, compared to a double sale of allowances.

Other changes include the possibility for subsidiary organisations that would qualify in their own right to be able to participate in the scheme independently from their parent or fellow subsidiary organisations. This will give organisations greater flexibility to choose the approach that best works for them, without losing emissions coverage of the scheme. I have also given extra weighting in the second year to the measurement of early action, which will feature in the league table. This change responds to stakeholder feedback and better reflects the expected life of the contribution made by such early action to an organisation's energy efficiency.

The CRC is the only UK scheme focused on energy efficiency measures, and therefore the main league table on which revenue recycling is based will remain an energy efficiency league table. I have carefully considered stakeholders’ views on the role of renewables in the scheme and in particular that many participants are also looking to invest in onsite renewable electricity generation to help play their part in a transition to a low carbon economy. I therefore want to recognise these efforts, alongside energy efficiency achievements, and will publish a second table which sets out the contribution made from both energy efficiency measures and the onsite generation of electricity from renewable resources, where this is also consumed onsite.

In achieving our climate change ambitions, it is critical that senior management throughout the economy are engaged in achieving these objectives. The CRC provides the policy framework to ensure that the existing best practice of our leading organisations will be more widely taken up, and that carbon becomes correctly considered, reported and valued. The scheme sits alongside the “Guidance on how to measure and report your greenhouse gas emissions”, published by Government on 30 September, explaining how all organisations should measure and report their greenhouse gas emissions, including those organisations captured by the CRC. Investors and the public will increasingly make judgments about organisations’ achievements on both saving energy and tackling climate change. I believe that the scheme will be an effective tool in helping the public and private sector play their part in avoiding catastrophic climate change.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Fly-tipping

Copies of the annual report on the number of incidents of fly-tipping recorded by local authorities on the Government’s Flycapture database in 2008-09 will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses today. This report gives information on the number and type of incidents, the type of land where the incident occurred and the estimated cost to authorities of dealing with it.

I am pleased to announce that there was a reduction of 9.3 per cent. in the number of fly-tipping incidents recorded by local authorities on the Flycapture database from 2007-08. I am also pleased to highlight the good work carried out by local authorities in carrying out 2,000 prosecutions alongside over 520,000 other enforcement actions to prevent or in response to fly-tipping incidents in 2008-09.

DEFRA will continue to work with the Environment Agency and local authorities to prevent illegal waste activity through a combination of prevention, education and enforcement.

This report is also available from the DEFRA website at:

http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/quality/local/flytipping/flycapture-data.htm

TB Eradication Group for England

In November 2008 representatives of the farming industry, the veterinary profession and DEFRA officials formed the TB eradication group for England to make recommendations to Ministers on bovine TB and its eradication. Last week the group published a progress report, including a number of recommendations. The UK has also submitted a TB eradication plan for 2010 to the European Commission. In addition Scotland has recently succeeded in achieving regional officially TB-free (OTF) status.

Bovine TB Eradication Group for England

I welcome the eradication group’s report which shows the progress they have made since last November. I have had useful discussions with the group, and appreciate their hard work in starting to develop a long-term, risk-based eradication programme. They have made recommendations for changes that can be made now to tackle the disease through improved surveillance and control, which I have accepted and already started to implement. They have also considered and recommended measures to support farms subject to TB restrictions.

First, there is a change in our policy on inconclusive reactors to the TB skin test. To date we have allowed two re-tests of repeat inconclusive reactors. However this risks leaving infected animals on farm, so from 1 January 2010 only a single re-test of repeat inconclusive reactors will be allowed before they are removed and slaughtered. This change brings us in line with EU law, and follows a similar move earlier this year in Wales and Scotland.

Secondly, there is a change in the way that routine TB surveillance testing intervals are set. There are risks with the current approach of setting these on a reactive basis at parish level, in particular that it does not allow us to get ahead of the disease. The eradication group will be looking at more risk-based approaches. Since this will take some time to develop, an interim approach will be introduced for 2010. This is based on a more proactive assessment of TB incidence and risk. The resulting testing regime for 2010 will be more coherent and consistent than in previous years and increase the number of herds in the high-risk areas which are tested annually, as well as increasing surveillance in areas at risk of TB spread by testing them every two years.

Finally, I understand the significant impacts TB restrictions can have. Following recommendations from the eradication group, animal health has introduced changes to make it easier for TB-restricted farms to buy replacement stock and sell their own surplus cattle, without materially undermining disease controls. Further measures to reduce the burden on TB-affected farms will be introduced in the next few months. Farmers under TB restrictions should also have access to the best available advice. DEFRA officials are looking at how to support the provision of professional advice for TB-affected farmers, to be introduced early in the new year.

DEFRA is providing an additional £5 million of funding for increased testing, compensation of TB reactor animals that are removed and slaughtered, and for advisory services. This will be found from savings elsewhere across DEFRA. There will be additional costs for some farmers, in terms of pre-movement testing requirements and TB restrictions; but I agree with the group that these are needed if we are to stop further spread and effectively tackle the disease.

The group’s progress report addresses wildlife controls and the culling of badgers. I have had frank discussions with it on these issues and have agreed that they should remain on the group’s agenda. I made it clear that the policy is that licences will not be issued to cull badgers for bovine TB control in England, and I will only revisit this under exceptional circumstances, or if new scientific evidence becomes available. The group said in its report that it cannot, at this stage, make a clear case for change on this basis.

I will place copies of the group’s report in the Libraries of both Houses.

The UK bovine TB eradication plan was submitted to the European Commission on 15 September. The Commission’s decision on approval and funding for our eradication plan will be published by the end of November. The eradication group contributed to the England sections of the plan.

Scotland is not included in the plan since it was granted officially TB-free (OTF) status on 8 September. The Scottish Executive and industry are to be congratulated on this significant achievement.

While responsibility for bovine TB is devolved, Scotland’s newly recognised status will affect the whole of the UK. Measures will be put in place to govern movements of cattle into Scotland from the rest of the UK. All UK Administrations have been working with stakeholders to develop these, with measures expected to come into force in February 2010. My priority has been to minimise the impact on the industry in England, ensuring that the measures introduced are appropriate and proportionate, recognising that many parts of England are low risk. I have agreed with Richard Lochhead (Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment) that if there are outstanding details in November implementation should be delayed until final mutual agreement is reached.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

On 1 October 2009 DEFRA published guidance, in partnership with the Department of Energy and Climate Change, explaining how organisations should measure and report their greenhouse gas emissions as required under section 83 of the Climate Change Act 2008. This followed a public consultation exercise on the draft guidance which closed on 7 August 2009.

The guidance is available on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs website at: http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/business/reporting/index.htm and copies will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Turks and Caicos Islands

On 12 August the Court of Appeal in London dismissed the appeal brought by former Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) Premier Michael Misick challenging our proposed action to tackle corruption in the Islands. Two days later I announced that I had instructed the Governor to bring into force an Order in Council suspending ministerial Government and the House of Assembly for a period of up to two years. The Order also suspended the constitutional right to trial by jury in TCI, which provides the possibility in future of having trials by judge alone in the TCI Supreme Court in appropriate cases.

This was a serious constitutional step which the Government did not take lightly. But these measures were essential in order to restore the principles of good governance and sound financial management. It remains our intention that elections should be held by July 2011, if not sooner.

In his final report, Sir Robin Auld confirmed that there was information in abundance pointing to a high probability of systemic corruption and/or serious dishonesty in TCI. In Sir Robin’s view this, together with clear signs of political amorality and immaturity and of general administrative incompetence, demonstrated a need for urgent suspension in whole or in part of the constitution and for other legislative and administrative reforms. Sir Robin also made preliminary recommendations including the institution of criminal investigations in relation to Michael Misick, and four of his former Cabinet ministers. He confirmed the recommendation in the interim report for the establishment of a Civil and Criminal Recovery Unit and the appointment of a special prosecutor.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Sir Robin and his team for their hard work, determination and dedication which has produced such a detailed and comprehensive report. The Governor has taken the following steps towards ensuring that the principles of good governance, sustainable development and sound financial management can be restored as quickly as possible:

An Advisory Council, chaired by the Governor, and a Consultative Forum, have been appointed by the Governor. Both bodies have now met and continue to do so regularly. They will ensure that the voice and views of the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands continue to be heard.

A full review of the TCI Governments finances has been undertaken and, in discussion with the Advisory Council and following debate in the Consultative Forum, further measures put in place to limit public expenditure, increase revenue and bring the islands’ debt under control. The Governor published a new budget at the end of September.

A range of (UK) Government-funded advisers is now in place to offer support and guidance not only to the Governor, but also to the public service. They are working in key areas of concern, as identified in Sir Robin Auld’s final report such as public financial management, crown land, customs and good governance. We are looking to appoint others to assist in areas such as immigration and constitutional and electoral reform.

The Chief Executive has launched an extensive restructuring of TCP s public service. A major review of TCI Ministries has been completed to help provide more efficient and effective public services. This has included the creation of two new Ministries: Border Control, and Tourism, Trade and Economic Development. New Permanent Secretaries (all TC Islanders) have been appointed. Membership of statutory boards has also been updated.

Work is underway to strengthen a number of areas of public sector delivery. Emphasis is also being placed on improving the ethics and culture of public service, particularly with respect to transparency and ensuring that all public sector decisions are taken in line with clear published policies. Additionally, public complaints and redress procedures are being strengthened.

A special prosecutor, Helen Garlick, and her team have been appointed and paid an initial visit to TCI in August. They have presented their initial scoping project to the Governor.

The Governor has undertaken a series of town hall meetings and has visited all the main inhabited islands: Salt Cay, South Caicos, Middle Caicos, North Caicos and Providenciales, as well as Grand Turk. This has given him the opportunity to explain to the general public what the interim Government means for them, to answer their questions, and to hear their concerns.

Health

Human Papillomavirus (Cervical Cancer) Vaccination Programme

Hon. Members will be aware of the tragic death of a 14 year old girl in Coventry on 28 September soon after she had received the Cervarix vaccine. Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this difficult time.

At the inquest into the girl’s death, the pathologist confirmed that she died from a large malignant tumour of unknown origin in the heart and lungs. There is no indication that the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine was a contributing factor to the death.

Before the results of the post-mortem were confirmed, the batch of vaccine in question was quarantined as a purely precautionary measure. Subsequently the manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline, voluntarily initiated a recall of the stock.

Over 1 million doses of the HPV vaccine gave been given in the United Kingdom since the programme began, and the vaccine has an excellent safety profile. It is estimated that the immunisation programme will save the lives of 400 women each year.

Information on the clinical trials of the vaccine is publicly available on the website of the European Medicines Agency, the body that advises on the licensing of the vaccine: www.emea.europa.eu/humandocs/PDFs/EPAR/ cervarix/H-721-en6.pdf

We have been transparent about the vaccine’s safety since the programme started in the UK. Information on the MHRA’s continuous review of safety and reports of suspected side effects are published each week on the MHRA website. The Commission on Human Medicines has recently reviewed the first year safety experience and advised that no serious new safety issues have been identified despite significant usage of the vaccine in the UK. A summary of this review has now been published on the MHRA website at: www.mhra.gov.uk/Publications /Safetyguidance/DrugSafetyUpdate/CON059804

The HPV vaccine protects against cervical cancer, and we are committed to offering girls and young women protection against it. The vaccine has an excellent safety profile. Parents should continue to have confidence in this vaccine and ensure their daughters are protected against developing cervical cancer in the future.

Home Department

HM Inspectorate of Constabulary Review (Home Office Leaks)

I am today placing in the Library of the House a copy of the HMIC report into the lessons learned from the recent Metropolitan Police investigation into Home Office leaks.

This report was commissioned by my predecessor. Its terms of reference were:

“Denis O’Connor, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary, supported by his small team of relevant experts, will undertake a review of the lessons learned from the recent Metropolitan Police investigation into Home Office leaks. The review will report to the Home Secretary”.

I am most grateful to Denis O’Connor for his work. It is important his recommendations are now followed up.

Justice

Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority

Further to my statement of 16 September, about progress on the implementation of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, parliamentary approval for additional resources of £1,100,000 for this new expenditure will be sought in a winter supplementary estimate for the Ministry of Justice. Pending that approval, urgent expenditure estimated at £1,100,000 is being met by a repayable cash advance from the Contingencies Fund.

Parliamentary authority for expenditure by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority will also be sought, in a new estimate.

Defamation Proceedings (Costs)

I issued the Government’s response to the consultation paper “Controlling Costs in Defamation Proceedings” on 24 September 2009.

The high level of costs incurred in defamation and some other publication proceedings have been the subject of criticism and debate in the courts and Parliament. The Government are concerned that the risk of excessive costs may force defendants to settle unmeritorious claims, which in turn may encourage a more risk-averse approach to media reporting and is a risk to freedom of expression.

In the light of the responses to the consultation paper and recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Civil Costs, the Government asked the Civil Procedure Rule Committee (CPRC) to consider draft rules to implement a number of measures to control costs in publication proceedings. The CPRC met twice to consider these proposals, and has approved amendments to:

require notice of after the event—ATE—insurance to be given to the other party with the letter before claim or within seven days of entering taking out insurance;

require additional information to be given as to whether premiums are staged and if so the stage at which increased premiums become payable and the level of insurance cover; and

in publication proceedings to introduce a 42-day period during which if the defendant admits liability and makes an offer leading to a settlement, the defendant is not liable for the ATE insurance premium.

In addition the CPRC suggested and approved a practice direction to implement a mandatory 12-month costs budgeting pilot for defamation and malicious falsehood proceedings. The Government will monitor the outcome of this pilot closely and hope that there will be close supervision, in particular, of hourly rates which are key to controlling costs in this area.

Rules to bring these measures into effect were included in the Civil Procedure (Amendments) Rules 2009 laid before Parliament to come into effect on 1 October 2009. Amendments to the pre-action protocols and practice directions also came into effect on the same date.

The Government have decided not to implement the other measures contained in the consultation paper at this time but will review them in the light of outcome of the pilot and recommendations made by Lord Justice Jackson’s review of civil litigation costs. We will also consider whether further measures are needed in this area.

Copies of the response paper have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The paper is also available on the Ministry of Justice website at: http://www.justice. gov.uk/consultations/controlling-costs-in-defamation-proceedings.htm

Copies have also been made available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.

Freedom of Information Act 2000

On Thursday 24 September I deposited copies of “The Freedom of Information Act 2000—Statistics on Implementation in Central Government: Q2—April— June 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.

Solicitor-General

Assisted Suicide

My right hon. Friend the Attorney-General has made the following written ministerial statement:

Following the House of Lords judgment in Purdy v DPP the Director of Public Prosecutions issued his interim policy document on the 23 September 2009, setting out the particular factors he would take account of when deciding whether to give consent to the prosecution of a person for the offence of aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring (assisting) another to commit or attempt to commit suicide.

This policy was issued on an interim basis and at the same time the Director announced he would start a consultation exercise that would last for three months. He is aiming to then publish his finalised policy in the Spring of 2010. Copies of the interim policy and the consultation paper have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

The policy does not change the law but responds to the House of Lords judgment in the case of Purdy v DPP.

It has never been the rule in England and Wales that suspected criminal offences must automatically be prosecuted. Where there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of a conviction for assisted suicide, the Director must, as with all offences, go on to consider whether a prosecution is needed in the public interest. In exercising that discretion, the Director takes into account factors both for and against prosecution. These are set out in the code for Crown Prosecutors. The consideration of evidence followed by a consideration of whether a prosecution is needed in the public interest constitutes the full code test.

In the case of Purdy v DPP the House of Lords considered that in the special case of assisted suicide the Director should issue a policy document setting out the further public interest factors that may apply to this specific offence in order to give prosecutors and persons in Ms Purdy’s position extra clarity as to the exercise of the prosecutorial discretion.

Each case is unique and will be considered on its own facts and merits with prosecutors continuing to apply the factors in the code for Crown Prosecutors as well as the new interim policy.

Transport

Urban Congestion Performance Fund

I am today announcing adjustments to the second payment tranche for the urban congestion performance fund. This follows the statement on 23 February 2009 when the 10 largest urban areas in England received £10.7 million to study and address the causes of urban congestion.

My Department has a Public Service Agreement indicator regarding journey time on main roads into urban areas. The indicator states that by 2010-11 the 10 largest urban areas in England will meet the congestion targets set in their local transport plans relating to movement on main roads into city centres. The national indicator will be deemed to have been met if, on target routes in these areas, an average increase in travel of 4.4 per cent. is accommodated with an average increase of 3.6 per cent. in person journey time per mile.

The publication of the “Transport Statistics Bulletin, Road Statistics 2008: Traffic, Speeds and Congestion”, on 25 June 2009 included revised performance data for the urban congestion indicator for the academic year 2007-08.

The overall national data now shows that the average person journey time across all the target routes has improved by 3.1 per cent. between the baseline (using 2004-05 and 2005-06 data) and 2007-08. The original announcement in February stated that it was a fall of 3.0 per cent. At the same time the average level of travel fell by 2.7 per cent. across all the target routes, whereas the original published figure was 3.3 per cent.

The individual data have also been adjusted for a number of areas. Based on this revised performance data, the West Midlands will now receive the modified payments as detailed in the table:

Urban Area

Original Tranche 2 payment announced on 23 February 2009

Revised Tranche 2 payment

West Midlands

£1,064,645

£1,216,738

Leicester’s performance data have also been adjusted from a fall in journey time of 0.1 per cent. to an increase of 1.1 per cent., but this is still better than their trajectory target. As the priority of the performance fund is to enable the urban areas to identify and tackle the causes of congestion, it has been decided to retain Leicester’s original performance fund allocation of £361,226. No other area had a significant change in their performance data for 2007-08.

The performance fund is worth a total of £60 million over four years, and today’s announcement will have seen a total of £22.9 million paid to the 10 areas. A further £35 million is available over the next two financial years, and will also be awarded on a performance basis.

Wales

Legislative Competence Order

I am pleased to inform the House that the proposed National Assembly for Wales (Legislative Competence) (Housing) Order 2009 relating to Domestic Fire Safety was laid on 7 October, as Command Paper (Cm 7715). This Order has been proposed by a backbench member of the National Assembly for Wales, Ann Jones, and has the support of the Welsh Assembly Government.

Copies of this can be found in the Vote Office and the Library. I have written to the Welsh Affairs Committee and to the House of Lords Constitution Committee to request they undertake pre-legislative scrutiny.