Written Ministerial Statements
Tuesday 2 March 2010
Energy and Climate Change
Household Energy Management
Together with my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and the Minister for Housing, I am publishing today “Warm Homes, Greener Homes: A strategy for Household Energy Management”, which sets out the strategy for improving energy efficiency in people’s homes through to 2020. Copies of the document will be placed in the Libraries of the House.
Improving domestic energy efficiency helps people to make their homes more comfortable, to save money on their energy bills and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This strategy sets out a comprehensive approach to helping people do that across all tenure types.
The strategy will deliver greenhouse gas emissions savings of at least 4 million tonnes of CO2 per annum by 2020, ensuring the UK hits its target of cutting emissions from households by 29 per cent. by 2020.
The strategy sets out our commitment to support people to install cavity wall and loft insulation in every home where practical to do so by 2015, while increasing the volumes of more significant insulation measures. We will help people to install eco-upgrades to their homes—which go beyond basic measures to include solid wall insulation and/or micro-renewable energy generation—in up to 7 million homes by 2020, on the way to ensuring that all homes have benefited from energy efficiency measures by 2030. There will be particular support for vulnerable groups.
To deliver against these objectives, the strategy sets out a new policy framework. This reflects the fact that the existing obligation for suppliers to support energy efficiency measures is due to expire at the end of 2012, and also the new challenges that need to be overcome to meet our stretching ambitions.
The strategy has four elements:
An enhanced role for local authorities, including a requirement on energy companies to partner with councils to deliver local area-based programmes and further support for district heating;
New financing mechanisms, including an obligation on energy companies to support people to improve their energy efficiency and plans for legislation to enable households to install measures without upfront costs, with repayments made out of the savings in energy bills;
Universal standards for the rented sector, including a new warm homes standard for social housing to complement decent homes and plans for regulation of the private rented sector;
Support for consumers in understanding their options, including a universal advice service, new standards for installation, and plans to make better use of the energy performance certificate.
We estimate that the implementation of this strategy will help support around 65,000 jobs in 2020 in the installation and manufacture of insulation and micro-generation, with further jobs created in the wider supply chain.
The proposals in this strategy signal a step change in the level of ambition for the household sector over the next decade that will put the country on track to meet our carbon targets while at the same time saving families money on their fuel bills, creating jobs and helping to secure our energy supplies.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
EU General and Foreign Affairs Councils
The General Affairs Council (GAC) and Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) were held on 22 February in Brussels. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary represented the UK.
The agenda items covered were as follows:
Foreign Affairs Council
The full text of all conclusions adopted, including ‘A’ points, can be found at:
High Representative Ashton gave a positive assessment of the EU’s contribution and announced that she would travel to Haiti soon, together with Humanitarian Commissioner Georgieva. The Commission said it would release €5 million (£4.39 million) in budget support within the next few days, rising to €50 million (£43.9 million) in the remainder of 2010; and was committing a further €90 million (£79.1 million) in humanitarian assistance, on top of the €30 million (£26.4 million) already committed, probably primarily for areas outside Port-au-Prince.
The High Representative proposed that the March FAC agree conclusions giving her the mandate to represent the EU at the donors’ conference in New York in late March; and that the EU should offer a significant long-run reconstruction package at the conference. Ideas for increasing EU visibility would also be discussed. The Government broadly welcome this approach.
At the High Representative’s request, the Foreign Secretary introduced the discussion. He highlighted that the EU needed to pursue the dual track policy and also increase the pressure in relation to human rights, whilst the E3 plus 3 pursued work on the new UNSCR. Ashton concluded that there was a high degree of consensus around several recommendations: including that the dual-track policy should be pursued “calmly and steadily”; and that the EU should be ready to support the UN track. The Government strongly endorse this approach.
This item was dropped from the FAC agenda.
The High Representative welcomed the conduct of the Ukrainian presidential elections. The Commission presented initial proposals for engagement with the new President that set out the reforms required and the EU support on offer. Following a discussion of these proposals, the High Representative noted the support from many member states to engage strongly with the new Ukrainian team, but also the need for progress with reforms on the Ukrainian side. The Government strongly support this approach.
The High Representative gave an update on the appointment of an EU special representative to Afghanistan. Once the process is completed, the successful candidate would be double-hatted as the head of the EU delegation in Kabul.
Poland raised the ongoing repression of Belarus’ Polish minority. The Commission noted that it had already lobbied the Belarusian Foreign Minister. The High Representative said that the FAC would return to this issue.
Ministers agreed a statement on the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai on 20 January. It condemned the fact that those involved in the operation had used passports and credit cards which had been fraudulently acquired through the theft of EU citizens’ identities. The Government strongly support the statement. The Foreign Secretary said that the EU needed to think hard about how it could promote peace and stability in the region, because the longer this was left unaddressed, the greater the risk of individual incidents such as this spilling over.
Malta, Italy and Spain briefed Ministers on the Libya/Swiss bilateral dispute, which had prompted Libya to refuse visas to citizens of all Schengen countries, including many EU member states. The High Representative concluded that Libya’s actions had been disproportionate, and encouraged the Swiss to resolve the matter diplomatically.
Portugal briefed Ministers on the recent flooding and landslides in Madeira. The High Representative said that she was keen to offer Portugal such assistance as possible.
The Council discussed briefly the coup d’état in Niger on 18 February and called for the swift restoration of democracy and constitutional order.
General Affairs Council
The full text of all conclusions adopted can be found at:
Preparation of the European Council, 25-26 March
The European Council agenda will consist of the Europe 2020 strategy for jobs and growth and climate change. The Government welcome the presidency’s choice of topics. The UK agreed that leaders needed continuously to pay attention to economic policy—but in order to make sure that a strategic view and assessment of progress could be made, a dedicated annual economic summit was needed; otherwise, the risk was that strategic consideration of economic policy would be derailed by events. The presidency expressed the need for progress on Europe 2020 at the spring European Council, to show that the EU could deliver for its citizens.
The new Climate Action Commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, set out her intentions for European climate policy in the wake of Copenhagen, placing particular emphasis upon the need for better co-ordinated outreach to the major international players. Many member states called for the maintenance of the EU’s ambition on climate, for the speedy operationalisation of the Copenhagen accord, and for delivery of the promised fast-start funding, all of which are in line with the UK position.
Dinner with President van Rompuy
The discussion covered the 11 February informal European Council and preparations for the spring European Council. President van Rompuy expressed satisfaction with the 11 February summit, although the dominance of economic issues had left work unfinished on climate change and Haiti, which the GAC and European Council would need to follow up.
The Council adopted the following conclusions or decisions without discussion:
Council conclusions on Zimbabwe
Council conclusions on the Republic of Moldova: Restrictive measures against the leadership of the Moldavian region of Transnistria
Council decision extending restrictive measures against the leadership of the Transnistrian region of the Republic of Moldova
Relations with Morocco: Adoption of the EU position in view of the EU-Morocco summit
Relations with the Kyrgyz Republic: Establishment of the EU position for the 11th meeting of the EU-Kyrgyz Republic Co-operation Council
Future of Nursing and Midwifery
Today, on behalf of the Government, I welcome formally the report from the Commission on the Future of Nursing and Midwifery in England.
The commission, chaired by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Health, the hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Ann Keen), was established by the Prime Minister in March 2009 to take a visionary look at how to maximise the contribution of nurses and midwives to the health of the nation in the future.
It undertook an extensive engagement exercise, hearing the views of many thousands of nurses, midwives, patients, and members of the public across England and its report, “Front Line Care”, sets out proposals to ensure that the nurses and midwives of the future are at the heart of designing and delivering 21st century health services.
I welcome the messages in the report that the fundamentals of patient care should always remain the core responsibility of nurses and midwives, but also that responsibility for care needs to go right through to the board.
I would like to place my thanks on record to the commission for the work that has led to this report.
My Department and I will consider the contents of the report in detail, and will formally respond in due course.
I am placing a copy of the report in the Library and copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office.
Bangladesh Development Forum
The Government of Bangladesh held a high level Bangladesh Development Forum (BDF) meeting in Dhaka on 15-16 February 2010. It was the first such event since 2005, and it took place one year after the current Government took office. The objective of the forum was for the Government to share, and discuss with development partners, their long-term plan to reach middle income status by 2021 (Vision 2021); the content of their new national strategy for accelerated poverty reduction; and their proposed reforms and delivery priorities.
The forum was widely hailed as a success. Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, opened the event, her speech referring specifically to the need for healthy democracy, decentralisation, transparency and anti-corruption. She highlighted the climate change challenge, called for speedy action on Copenhagen “fast-start” finance and emphasised the importance of women’s empowerment and gender equity. Her presence increased the profile of the event, attracting substantial national media attention.
Six business sessions covered: development strategies, governance and human development; power and energy; agriculture, food security and water resources; environment and climate change; transport and communications; and “Digital Bangladesh and ICT development”. The Minister of Finance A.M.A. Muhith chaired all six business sessions, supported by Economic Adviser to the Prime Minister Moshior Rahman and a number of cabinet ministers and secretaries. The event was well attended by development partners, including 36 development agencies and donors, and more than 80 civil society and private sector representatives. Bangladesh was congratulated on its progress towards the millennium development goals, on its sustained economic growth, and on its climate change strategy.
Improving delivery was at the heart of all discussions, with governance issues—the need for institutional and policy reforms, local government strengthening, improved implementation capacity and reduced corruption—and climate change featuring prominently. The importance of regional links in power, trade, transport and communications, and the need to create a better investment climate in Bangladesh was emphasised. The Finance Minister reaffirmed the Government’s determination to increase domestic revenue mobilisation and improve budget implementation.
Commitments were captured in a “BDF agreed action plan”, outlining 25 concrete actions for Government to be supported by development partners. The potential for increased transparency and aid effectiveness was boosted by the Government’s endorsement of the joint co-operation strategy, produced collectively by 32 development partners operational in Bangladesh and centred around the Paris declaration on aid effectiveness and Accra agenda for action.
The themes emerging from the BDF endorsed the direction the UK’s country plan for Bangladesh (2009-2014) is already taking, with our development efforts focused on building effective Government systems and strengthening the political system; improving the delivery of services; working with the private sector to create jobs; and helping the country live with climate change. Future programme direction and ongoing implementation of the existing portfolio will be guided by the BDF outcomes and framed by the joint co-operation strategy.
The Government of Bangladesh used the event to dismiss reports—in the UK and Bangladesh—of a dispute over climate change funding. The Government confirmed their desire to establish a climate change multi-donor trust fund, with grant funding committed from the UK, the European Union and Denmark. The fund will by led by the Government with the World Bank providing technical back-stopping and fiduciary management.
As co-chair of the Local Consultative Group, which represents development partners in Bangladesh, the UK played a central strategic role in preparing for the forum and steering the event. We will continue to work closely with the Government of Bangladesh to ensure that the next steps outlined in the action plan are implemented.
Bernard Lodge Inquiry
Today I have laid before Parliament the Government response to the report of the Inquiry into the death of Bernard Lodge, who died at HMP Manchester on 28 August 1998. I published the report of the inquiry on 15 December 2009.
The National Offender Management Service is committed to learning lessons from all deaths in prison custody.
Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Licensing
The Department has published today a revised version of its best practice guidance for taxi and private hire vehicle (PHV) licensing authorities.
A copy has been placed in the Libraries of the House.
The purpose of the guidance is to assist licensing authorities in carrying out their taxi and PHV licensing functions.
The key aim of the guidance is to ensure that the decisions which licensing authorities make deliver a good and safe service to the public having taken account of all the factors involved, including, for example, the effect on the supply of taxis and PHVs of unnecessary rules and restrictions.
Publication of guidance was initially recommended by the Office of Fair Trading in the context of their market study in 2003. The first guidance was published in 2006. This revised version takes account of comments received as part of a consultation exercise in 2009.
Urban Challenge Fund
I am announcing today the Government’s plans for a new urban challenge fund designed to support local authorities in delivering economic growth and improving the health and environment for local communities in urban areas
The Prime Minister’s strategy unit report on urban transport and the DFT response “The Future of Urban Transport”, published in November 2009, identified a range of transport challenges faced by our cities. It estimated the cost of congestion, in delays and unreliability suffered by road users, to be of the order of £12 billion a year. The PMSU report also indicated that the measurable costs to society of poor air quality, inactivity leading to obesity, and road accidents in urban areas, are each similar to those of congestion. The evidence from the PMSU report is that initiatives geared to tackling the various challenges simultaneously better would achieve “triple win” outcomes in terms of economic growth, improvements to health, and improvement to the urban environment. This new fund will support forward-looking cities and local authorities in delivering these outcomes.
The aim of the new fund will be to deliver clear and measurable benefits for urban areas in terms of:
enhanced mobility, through offering people wider choices for their journeys;
reduced congestion and increased journey time reliability;
better health as a result of improved safety and much greater levels of walking and cycling;
streets and public spaces which are enjoyable places to be, where exposure to harmful emissions is reduced, and where quality of life is transformed:
improved safety; and
reduced level of carbon emission from transport.
The fund will support packages of measures designed to deliver all of these benefits. The packages are likely to include a combination of sustainable travel measures, investment to encourage modal shift and better bus services alongside demand management measures, better and city-wide traffic management and improved street design. Acting together, these measures will deliver a step change in the local economy, the health of urban residents and the environment they enjoy.
The new fund will replace the transport innovation fund. Work by a number of authorities showed that a combination of measures was necessary to tackle the problem of congestion and could deliver wider benefits to local communities, the urban economy and environment. TIF also encouraged new thinking in a number of areas, for example on a phased and incremental approach to demand management. Its weaknesses lay in its too narrow a focus on the issue of congestion, the failure to win public acceptance for the more challenging proposals, and inability to transform governance at the same time as delivering radical change. The new fund will draw on the lessons from TIF and the new ideas that have come forward.
Sustainable travel measures will be a key component of the packages supported by the new fund. The sustainable travel towns initiative has shown that small-scale, relatively inexpensive measures can deliver significant reductions in car trips, increases in bus use, walking and cycling and consequential improvements in health. In order to achieve best value from available resources, the sustainable travel programme for cities will be absorbed into the urban challenge fund. While there will be no separate fund for cities, we would expect these sorts of measures to form part of a wider package of interventions, and deliver even greater benefits than those already achieved through the sustainable travel towns initiative.
The Department will be considering the future of our current congestion performance fund and targets with a view to ensuring there is an integrated approach to addressing all of the challenges in urban areas.
Funding for the urban challenge fund will be top-sliced from the Department’s overall funding allocation following conclusion of the next comprehensive spending review.
I am publishing today also a discussion paper inviting comments on the new urban challenge fund. Copies of the discussion paper are being placed in the House Libraries and will also be available on the Department for Transport’s website.
Work and Pensions
National Employment Savings Trust
Today is another important milestone for the delivery of workplace pension reform. The Personal Accounts Delivery Authority (PADA) has completed its procurement for the scheme administration services for NEST, and will award that contract to Tata Consultancy Services Limited (TCS) later today. PADA plans to sign the contract with TCS later this month.
The 10-year contract has two stages. The first stage runs to October 2010, and enables TCS to begin the activity required to set up and administer NEST. A further decision will be made by October on whether to proceed with the second stage contract for the remainder of the contract term. The contract also includes possible extensions for up to a further five years.
NEST is a critical part of the Government’s pension reforms and, as one of the pension schemes employers will be able to use to fulfil their automatic enrolment duties, will play a major role in supporting low to moderate earners in saving for their retirement.
PADA’s priority has been to secure value for money for future NEST members. I am satisfied this contract achieves that objective, and we remain on track to deliver the reform package from October 2012.