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Written Statements

Volume 511: debated on Tuesday 8 June 2010

Written Ministerial Statements

Tuesday 8 June 2010


Office for Budget Responsibility

Sir Alan Budd and I have agreed the terms of reference for the interim Office for Budget Responsibility.

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

Culture, Media and Sport

Media and Technology

The coalition’s programme for Government set out the Government’s belief that a vibrant media sector is crucial for our well-being and quality of life. The Government’s intention is to create the conditions that will allow enterprise to flourish in a way that avoids over-regulation or over-subsidy. I am therefore today announcing:

Rapid roll-out of superfast broadband: we need to put the digital infrastructure in place that will allow this country to increase growth rapidly in the digital economy as we come out of recession. The Government propose to take this forward in two areas: (i) backing the commitment to make a service level of 2Mbps available to those parts of the country still without a basic level of access; (ii) announcing three rural market testing projects that will bring superfast broadband to rural areas.

Access to infrastructure: to support the Government’s commitments to the roll-out of superfast broadband by ensuring that BT and other infrastructure providers allow the use of their assets to deliver such broadband, we will: (i) back Ofcom’s proposals for opening up access to BT’s ducts and telegraph poles to promote further investment; (ii) in line with the Queen’s Speech, offer clarity that if legislation is necessary then the Government are ready to bring it to the House; and (iii) to encourage further debate on the issue, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport will publish a paper setting out our latest thinking on this in July, coinciding with an industry day to be organised by Broadband Delivery UK.

Local media: as part of the Government’s wider commitment to localisation, we aim to provide the right incentives and conditions for sustainable commercial growth in local TV and online services. The Government therefore proposes: (i) that it will not go ahead with the previous Administration’s Independently Funded News Consortia (IFNC) pilots; we recognise the high degree of innovation and level of partnerships which emerged through the pilot procurement process; however, we do not agree that subsidising regional news is the right approach; (ii) instead, funding identified for the IFNC pilots will be used to support our plans for the roll-out of superfast broadband around the country; (iii) that we will accept Ofcom’s recommendations on reforming local cross-media ownership rules meaning they will be significantly relaxed. I will bring forward secondary legislation to the House to enact these changes as soon as possible; (iv) to support local television, we will be conducting a full assessment of the regulatory and commercial context for local TV with strong independent input in order to identify the interventions which can best secure sustainable local television in this country. Based on those findings, I will publish a full local media action plan in the autumn.

A full copy of my speech will also be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Sea Fish Industry Authority

The Sea Fish Industry Authority (Seafish), is a UK-wide, levy-funded non-departmental public body established by the Fisheries Act 1981. It has a statutory duty to promote the efficiency of the sea fish industry as a whole. It is jointly sponsored by the four fisheries administrations in the UK.

On 18 March, the Court of Appeal ruled that the Fisheries Act 1981 does not permit Seafish to raise a levy on imported sea fish and sea fish products, only that which is first landed in the UK. The result was to significantly reduce its levy income.

The Court of Appeal handed down an order on 20 April requiring Seafish to repay to the claimants six years of unlawfully collected levy plus interest and costs. The Court of Appeal agreed to stay the execution of the payments pending determination of an appeal to the Supreme Court.

On 18 May, Defra, with the support of Seafish, petitioned the Supreme Court for leave to appeal against the judgment.

The reduction in Seafish’s income has led Seafish to scale back their activities and to ask the sponsoring administrations for financial support. With the agreement of HM Treasury, Ministers have agreed to make a short-term, commercial loan of £200,000 available to Seafish to enable Seafish to continue to operate within its reduced income.

Officials are continuing to work with Seafish to explore the longer-term options and further statements will be made as appropriate.

Prime Minister

Prime Ministerial Appointments

The right hon. Lord Patten of Barnes will lead Government arrangements for the papal visit as my personal representative. Pope Benedict XVI will be visiting the UK as both Head of State and the leader of a major denomination. Lord Patten will, on my behalf, oversee and manage Government preparations for the visit alongside the arrangements being made by the Catholic bishop conferences. Lord Patten will oversee the coordination of all elements for which the Government are responsible.

The right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Frank Field) will lead a review on poverty and life chances. This will examine the case for reforms to poverty measures and look at what the Government can do to improve the lives of the least advantaged people in our society and will report to the Government by the end of the year.


Motorcycle Test

I am announcing today a review of motorcycle tests in Great Britain. The new two-part motorcycle test that was introduced in April 2009 has clearly led to some concern among motorcycle groups, particularly about the safety of the off-road module 1 part of the test and about the difficulty of accessing the limited number of off-road test centres. The new test was introduced in order to meet the requirements of the second EU directive on driving licences. While most elements in the module 1 test are required by the directive, there may be scope for us to make some changes to the way in which the test is carried out.

We will be working with the motorcycle community and road safety groups to look again at the current form of the motorcycle test. This review will look at the manoeuvres carried out in both modules 1 (off-road) and 2 (on-road) and whether these manoeuvres could safely be conducted in the on-road test.

The review will also look at other related motorcycle testing and training issues, including the options for training and testing for progressive access under the third driving licence directive and how any changes relate to wider proposals to improve motorcycle training and testing.

We are inviting views from members of the public, motorcycle riders, trainers, road safety groups and others on what aspects of the motorcycle test they want us to look at, including how and where they think motorcycle testing might best and most safely be carried out. Views should be submitted to the Department for Transport ( by 31 July. We aim to conclude the review by the autumn.