Written Ministerial Statements
Thursday 29 October 2009
As part of the update provided by Budget 2009 on the Government’s tax simplification reviews, the Government committed to consult on further simplification of the associated company rules.
I am today publishing a consultation document to fulfil that commitment. The consultation seeks stakeholders’ views on a proposal to reform the associated company rules as they apply to the small companies’ rate of corporation tax. The proposed reform aims to benefit businesses by providing a more targeted test to establish those companies whose profits should be considered collectively in establishing the rate of corporation tax that applies to them. Further details can be found in the consultation document, copies of which have been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses and are available on HM Treasury’s website.
Business, Innovation and Skills
Global Entrepreneurship Week
My noble Friend the Minister for Trade, Investment and Small Business, Lord Davies of Abersoch, has today made the following statement:
This year, GEW runs from 16-22 November. This is the UK’s second GEW an initiative inspired by BIS and co-founded with the Kauffman Foundation in the USA. There will be more than 80 countries taking part in this years entertaining and stimulating week.
Highlighting the importance of entrepreneurship is crucial for the future aspirations of millions of young people and the economic future of the UK. Entrepreneurs innovate, create jobs, increase economic growth and therefore help ensure a nation’s competitiveness. They spot opportunities, take risks, have ideas and make them happen.
GEW will help budding British entrepreneurs: by accessing international networks they will be able to brainstorm new ideas, enter new markets and find new resources. It will encourage the UK’s young people to become entrepreneurs, through interactive events that engage those who would not otherwise have considered enterprise. And by connecting British youth with young people abroad, it should increase the level of cultural understanding in the UK.
Its not just about entrepreneurs and business start ups; the week will also encourage organisations across the globe to celebrate and recognise the wealth of talent that is evident in every business and to encourage their employees to start thinking about ideas that have a very clear and tangible business benefit.
Last year, GEW was an enormous success and generated community interest in entrepreneurship; 644,000 people attended the 6,363 events. The single largest activity was the Make Your Mark Challenge which involved 56,000 students from schools and colleges. Around the world there were at least 25,000 events across 77 countries.
This year there are 82 countries involved as GEW gains momentum globally. We hope to make the week a success and inspire people across the world.
Implementation of the Armed Forces Act 2006
I am pleased to announce that implementation of the Armed Forces Act 2006 will be completed and the Act will come into force on 31 October. The legislation establishes for the first time a single system of service law across the armed forces. It preserves the important principle of a separate service justice system, reflecting the particular circumstances of the armed forces, and keeps the commanding officer at the heart of service discipline. It also promotes greater fairness, which in turn supports operational effectiveness.
The new single, harmonised and modernised system of service law will apply to the personnel of all three services at all times, wherever in the world they are serving. It will also apply to some civilians, but only overseas and in specified circumstances.
When the new legislation comes into force, a number of Acts of Parliament will be repealed, including the current Service Discipline Acts (the Army Act 1955, the Air Force Act 1955 and the Naval Discipline Act 1957).
The Armed Forces Act 2006 was the largest and arguably the most significant piece of legislation the Ministry of Defence has ever put before Parliament. Its implementation has been a lengthy and complex process, but the new single system of service law that it has established will serve the armed forces well for many years to come.
Guidance on the new service justice system is provided in the “Manual of Service Law”, which is now available on the Armed Forces Act 2006 website at the following link: http://www.mod.uk. I will also arrange for a copy to be placed in the Library of the House.
Health and Criminal Justice Programme
On 30 April, my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice announced the Government’s response to my right hon. and noble Friend Lord Bradley’s review of people with mental health problems or learning disabilities in the criminal justice system. The Government accepted the direction of travel set out by Lord Bradley, and committed to developing a national delivery plan incorporating a full response to the report’s recommendations.
The Government stated that they would report to Parliament on the progress achieved by the end of October 2009.
The Government are pleased to report that since the publication of Lord Bradley’s review, a cross-departmental health and criminal justice national programme board, chaired by David Behan (Director General for Social Care, Local Government and Care Partnerships in the Department of Health), has been established to consider Lord Bradley’s recommendations in detail and to develop a national delivery plan. ‘Improving Health, Supporting Justice’—the delivery plan of the health and criminal justice programme board—will be published in November and we will make a further written ministerial statement about this on the day of publication.
The Government also accepted Lord Bradley’s recommendation for a National Advisory Group to be established to help ensure wider involvement from interested organisations. I am pleased to announce today that Keith Pearson who is currently chair of NHS East of England, has been appointed as the chair of the National Advisory Group.
Health and Adult Social Care Providers (Registration)
Today I am publishing a consultation response, which is the latest stage in the development of the new system we are introducing for the regulation of health and adult social care.
The publication, “Response to consultation on the draft regulations for the framework for the registration of health and adult social care providers” sets out our response to our previous consultation on the draft regulations that will govern the new registration system1. It describes how the wording of the draft regulations we have today laid before Parliament has changed since the consultation process. It also details changes in the policy for a further set of regulations, which we intend to lay later this autumn.
The draft regulations, to be made under the powers provided for in the Health and Social Care Act 2008, set out the detail of the new registration framework to be operated by the Care Quality Commission. This, subject to approval by Parliament, will be introduced for the NHS in April 2010 and for private and voluntary health care and adult social care from October 2010.
Earlier this year, Parliament approved regulations made under these powers to regulate NHS providers against a requirement about cleanliness and infection control. Since 1 April this year, NHS providers have been required to register with the Care Quality Commission and comply with the requirement on cleanliness and infection control.
These draft regulations laid today set out who needs to register with the Care Quality Commission (scope of registration) and what they need to do to register and remain registered (registration requirements).
The new approach will mean that patients and people using services will have the same level of assurance of the quality and safety of their care and treatment, whether it is being provided by the NHS, local government, private or third sectors
The registration requirements are designed to address the concerns of people using health and adult social care services, covering the topics on which they want assurance. They provide clarity about the essential levels of safety and quality all providers must deliver for people who use their services, without being prescriptive about how providers run their services.
The registration system will operate alongside a wider quality improvement framework that encourages not just good care, but excellent care. The Commission will have a role in contributing to ongoing quality improvement as part of the wider quality framework, particularly through its publication of comparable information in periodic reviews, and its power to conduct special reviews into areas of particular interest.
This publication will be of interest to anyone providing or working in health and adult social care, and to patients and people using services, who are interested in how the reforms are going to improve these services.
Today’s publication has been placed in the Library and copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office.
1Response to consultation on the framework for the registration of health and adult social care providers and consultation on draft regulations.
Returns to Zimbabwe
I am announcing today our intention to make changes over time to our returns policy to Zimbabwe, recognising the different categories of people currently living in the UK. This reflects developments in Zimbabwe following the formation of the inclusive Government led by Prime Minister Tsvangirai.
As Prime Minister Tsvangirai has set out, including during his visit to the UK in June, there have been some positive changes in the situation in Zimbabwe over the past six months. While a great deal remains to be done to institute the political and other reforms set out in the global political agreement, the indiscriminate violence which marred the elections of 2008 has abated. And the formation of the inclusive Government has led to improvements in the economy, schools and the availability of basic commodities. In response to this changed situation some Zimbabweans in the UK are considering returning home to help rebuild their country. I consider we should be doing more to help them.
On 1 February we announced enhancements to the assisted voluntary return (AVR) package for Zimbabweans. AVR packages are available for individuals of all nationalities who are within the asylum system. The standard package provides support to help them reintegrate into their home country, including £4,000 for vocational training, assistance in setting up a business and a flight home. Since February the package for Zimbabweans has been supplemented with an extra £2,000 of reintegration assistance. This includes an additional £500 cash on departure, an extra £1,000 “in kind” assistance for business set up, a £500 basic subsistence package and cholera prevention kits.
We are today changing the way we deliver our supplementary package for Zimbabweans such that the total value remains the same but, instead of providing the assistance “in kind”, cash payments will now be phased in over a six-month period through the IOM office in Harare. Making cash available to those who go home will support economic reform in Zimbabwe — enabling people to return voluntarily and use their skills to support change and help rebuild Zimbabwe with capital behind them. The scheme will also be extended until 31 December and will be reviewed at that point.
Alongside these changes to our voluntary returns package we have also considered carefully our position on enforced returns to Zimbabwe. We have kept this issue under review since the Home Office first deferred enforced returns to Zimbabwe in September 2006 and the courts have found that not all Zimbabweans are in need of international protection. The UK Border Agency will therefore be starting work over the autumn on a process aimed at normalising our returns policy to Zimbabwe, moving towards resuming enforced returns progressively as and when the political situation develops.
The agency takes its obligations under the 1951 refugee convention seriously. We will continue to consider each case on its individual merits and where someone needs protection it will be granted. However, we have always expected those found not to be in need of protection to return home. We prefer these individuals to return voluntarily and the enhancements to the AVR scheme will support this, but where they choose not to do so we are bound to take steps, over time, to enforce the law.
Justice and Home Affairs (Post-Council Statement)
The Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council was held in Luxembourg on 23 October 2009. My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, Lord Bach, the Scottish Minister for Community Safety, Fergus Ewing, and I attended on behalf of the United Kingdom. The following issues were discussed at the Council:
The Council began in Mixed Committee with non-EU Schengen states, receiving an update from the presidency on arrangements for the first milestone test for the second generation Schengen information system (SIS II). The UK stressed that the test should take place by the end of this year in line with the June Council conclusions. The UK also stated that it was important to distinguish between a delayed and a failed test and that it would not accept a decision on the future of SIS II unless a test had failed.
Next, the presidency presented an update on the current state of play on the implementation of the regulation establishing the Visa Information System (VIS), where technical problems would delay the launch. The UK does not participate in that regulation.
Following Mixed Committee, the presidency invited the Commission to provide a summary of the fifth annual visa reciprocity report. While the UK does not participate in the EU visa regime, we do maintain an interest in all visa issues, notably for full reciprocity with third country nationals. The Council then exchanged views on the Canadian decision to impose visas on Czech nationals. The UK believes the Commission should continue to engage with the Canadians to broker a solution.
The Council reached agreement on the draft framework decision on accreditation of forensic laboratory activities, which aims to increase mutual trust in DNA and fingerprint data exchanged between member states by requiring a minimum standard of accreditation. The presidency hoped that the framework decision would be formally adopted at the November JHA Council.
The Council then reached a general approach on the proposal for a Council decision to establish the European crime prevention network. This instrument will strengthen the network’s ability to identify, exchange and disseminate crime prevention information and actions targeted at traditional or volume crime. Following receipt of the European Parliament’s opinion on the proposal, the decision will come back to the Council on the 30 November for formal adoption.
Under any other business the Commission presented its review of visa facilitation in the western Balkans. The UK does not participate in the part of the Schengen acquis that covers visa liberalisation, and will not be lifting visit visa requirements for western Balkan states when the Schengen zone liberalises its own requirements. The UK remains a strong supporter of the EU enlargement process and the aspirations of west Balkan states for eventual EU membership.
Over lunch Home Affairs Ministers discussed proposals for the new European Asylum Office. There was a clear desire to move quickly. The UK has not yet decided which country to support to host this office.
In the afternoon, Justice Ministers adopted a Council resolution on a “roadmap” for strengthening procedural rights of suspected or accused persons in criminal proceedings. The UK supported this pragmatic approach and the focus on practical measures as well as legislation. Justice Ministers also reached a general approach on a draft framework decision and an accompanying draft resolution on the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings. The UK congratulated the presidency on reaching agreement on this measure which will make a real difference to the lives of citizens.
The presidency updated Justice Ministers on the progress that has been made at official level on the proposed framework decision on transfer of proceedings in criminal matters. The UK stated that its support of this measure would depend on amendments being made to the proposal, particularly provisions relating to jurisdiction.
The presidency provided an update on negotiations and sought views with the aim of resolving outstanding issues on the framework decision on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting victims. The Commission stressed the importance of going further than the Council of Europe convention and welcomed the global approach to combating trafficking. It appealed, however, for higher levels of penalties, and for greater assistance for victims. The UK supported the presidency compromise and, despite the UK having very limited extraterritorial jurisdiction, said that it had taken the decision to extend jurisdiction to cover UK nationals who commit trafficking offences abroad given the seriousness of the offences involved. The presidency welcomed the broad support for the text and concluded that formal agreement would be reached in November.
Under any other business, the Commission presented its proposal on succession and wills, stating that its ambition was to make the lives of citizens easier. The presidency noted that there would be plenty of opportunity for discussion in the future.
The indicative budget for 2010-11, communicated to probation chiefs in February 2009 was £844 million, compared with a budget of £894 million in 2009-10. This would have been a 5.6 per cent. reduction year-on-year.
In the light of strong representations I have received from the probation service and from the probation unions, and my particular concern about employment prospects for recently qualified probation officers, I can announce today that the confirmed 2010-11 allocation will be £870 million, £26 million more than the original indicative budget. This equates to a reduction of 2.68 per cent. year-on-year. This is consistent with the savings expected across the public service.
In this economic climate the probation service along with all public services has to achieve efficiency savings. Probation boards and trusts have been required to review their structures, overheads, support services and efficiency levels. This funding will enable probation boards/trusts to review their staffing plans for 2010-11 which will benefit both the September 2009 graduates and the 305 trainee probation officers due to graduate in September 2010.
The additional funding will be targeted to increase confidence in community penalties and divert low risk offenders from short term custody. Directors of offender management will be required to negotiate specific service improvements with individual boards/trusts which will be incorporated in SLAs contracts for 2010-11 to ensure that this additional funding is targeted on front line delivery. Detailed work will be undertaken by directors of offender management with areas/trusts to agree additional service delivery requirements and finalise individual allocations.
The total case load of offenders being supervised by the probation service rose by 53 per cent. between 31 December 1997 and 31 December 2008 (from 159,200 to 243,400). This compares to an overall rise in the probation service budget of 70 per cent. in real terms between 1997 and 2007.
The total offender case load has remained stable in recent years. At 31 December 2007 there were 242,700 offenders being supervised, compared to 243,400 at 31 December 2008 and 244,300 at 31 March 2009.
The overriding priority for the probation service is public protection which will not be put at risk. Probation areas are looking to make any required savings through back office and management rationalisation and improvements in efficiency and processes, protecting front line delivery.
Report of the Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Ireland
The Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Ireland is responsible for all aspects of electoral administration in Northern Ireland, including the conduct of all elections and referendums, as well as electoral registration. Section 14 of the Electoral Law Act (Northern Ireland) 1962—as amended by Section 9 of the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2006—provides that the Chief Electoral Officer must submit an annual report to the Secretary of State. The annual report of the Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Ireland for the year 2008-09 has been laid before Parliament today. Copies are available in the Libraries of both Houses.
Transport for London
My right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, Lord Adonis, has made the following ministerial statement:
The ex-Metronet investment programme covers the upgrade, maintenance and renewal of infrastructure on the Bakerloo, Central, Victoria, Waterloo and City and the sub-surface (Metropolitan, Circle, District, Hammersmith and City) lines. It will deliver nearly 30 per cent. more capacity across the network, improving journey times and reliability.
Following the administration of Metronet in July 2007, its assets and obligations were transferred to Transport for London in May 2008 as an interim measure. The former Mayor and Secretary of State for Transport tasked a Joint Steering Committee consisting of Transport for London (TfL) including London Underground Ltd (LUL), the Department for Transport and HM Treasury with considering a range of options for the permanent structure of the Metronet contracts, with the objective of providing a stable and safe operational framework and delivering the modernisation, upgrade and maintenance of the tube infrastructure at an affordable price that offered value for money for the taxpayer.
The Mayor and I have accepted the committee’s recommendations that the contracts inherited from Metronet should remain under the direct management of LUL as the best value option under the present circumstances, with the majority of upgrades already underway. Some of these contracts have since been renegotiated to secure more favourable terms for LUL. Future contracts will be procured directly by LUL, including robust performance incentives and transferring risk where appropriate. LUL will remain responsible for all asset management decisions, but there will continue to be substantial private sector involvement through the contracts managed by LUL. A decision on the most appropriate contracting arrangement for the Bakerloo line upgrade (which has not yet started) will be taken nearer the time, reflecting lessons learnt from the earlier upgrades.
LUL is investing in its management and organisational capacity and capability in order to meet this new challenge. Organisational restructuring within LUL has also created a clearer separation of client and delivery functions, with a defined sponsor for each project.
Underpinning these new arrangements and responding to the increased size of TfL’s investment programme are new scrutiny measures at Transport for London. The Mayor will establish an independent advisory panel with remit extending across the entirety of the TfL investment programme, including all maintenance, renewal, upgrades and major projects across the modes, but not operations.
Members of the new panel will be appointed by the Mayor from a shortlist agreed with me. The Mayor and I will also agree the panel’s terms of reference. The panel will report to the TfL board and the Mayor as its chair. The members of the panel will have experience in a range of disciplines including engineering, finance and project management, ensuring that as a whole the panel will be able to offer expert advice, opinion and challenge on all aspects of TfL’s investment programme, including the ex-Metronet works.
The panel will be able to review all aspects of project delivery including cost and programme deliverability. It will also review delivery of the investment programme at a portfolio level, including management and organisational capability and the efficiency, effectiveness and economy of delivery of the investment programme. The panel will report its findings directly to the TfL board, who will also receive a TfL management response setting out how the issues raised have been or will be dealt with. The panel will commission other reports as it or the TfL board consider appropriate. It will publish an annual report making overall conclusions on the delivery of the investment programme. Copies of all reports will be provided to me, in view of Government’s significant contribution to the investment programme through the GLA transport grant which accounts for just under 40 per cent. of TfL’s total income.
These new arrangements build on the work of LUL during the interim period and will offer the stability and certainty LUL need to deliver the investment programme inherited from Metronet and with it the improvements so critical to growth and prosperity in London.
These arrangements are in accordance with the existing framework of devolution of powers to the Mayor, who now bears full responsibility for delivery of the upgrade, maintenance and renewal work previously the responsibility of Metronet.
Tube lines will remain responsible for the upgrade, maintenance and renewal of infrastructure on the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines under its PPP, with independent scrutiny provided by the PPP arbiter.
Local Services (Operation by Licensed Hire Cars) Regulations 2009
The Secretary of State for Transport has today laid regulations under the Local Transport Act 2008 which will allow the owners of private hire vehicles (PHVs) to use their vehicles to provide local bus services.
The regulations will come into force on 27 November 2009.
Section 53 of the 2008 Act allows the holder of a PHV licence to acquire a special public service vehicle (PSV) licence from the traffic commissioner and to register a local bus service using a licensed PHV.
It is likely that this new opportunity will be of particular benefit to those in rural areas where it might not be cost-effective for bus operators to run services using larger buses.
The regulations apply in England, (outside London), Wales and Scotland. Transport for London are responsible for making any regulations governing PHV-buses in London. The ability to run bus services has been available to the owners of licensed taxis since 1986.
A summary of the responses received to the consultation exercise on the draft regulations, which was launched on 17 December 2008, has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
Work and Pensions
Discretionary Social Fund
The Secretary of State will be making changes to the discretionary Social Fund, with effect from 30 October 2009.
The change introduces the requirement for most customers to be interviewed at a local Jobcentre Plus office when they make a third or subsequent application for a crisis loan to cover living expenses.
During such an interview customers will be provided with a leaflet that contains details of local and national organisations that can provide money management advice. The leaflet has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses of Parliament and copies are also available in the Vote office.