Written Ministerial Statements
Thursday 15 July 2010
Business, Innovation and Skills
South West and Yorkshire and Humber Regional Committees
This statement provides a Government response in relation to the following reports:
South West Regional Committee inquiry into the prospects for the South West Economy published on 31 March 2010.
Yorkshire and the Humber Regional Committee inquiry into the Work of Yorkshire Forward published on 16 March 2010.
The dissolution of Parliament in April 2010 did not allow sufficient time for a formal Government response to be sent to these Committees, which following a statement by the Leader of the House on 26 May 2010 will not be re-enacted.
The Government’s response
The creation of the coalition Government has meant that the policy context has changed significantly for some issues, which the Committees have highlighted. The “Coalition: our programme for Government”, outlines the Government’s position on these and other relevant issues. As a consequence the Government do not intend to respond in detail to each of the recommendations. The Government acknowledge the reports of the Committees and thanks the Committee members and witnesses for their contributions.
The South West Regional Committee report—Prospects for South West Economy
The South West Regional Committee report made 15 recommendations and looked at:
The opportunities that green industries might provide for the people of the region in terms of jobs, skills, supply chains, investment, and the quality of life.
The importance of small and micro businesses, and social enterprises, for the region and the remarkable resilience they have shown through the recession.
The need for greater broadband coverage across the region (especially in rural areas).
South West strengths in advanced manufacturing/ composites, creative industries and tourism.
Potential vulnerability of the region's dependence on public sector employment.
The Government share the Committee’s conclusions that a green industry provides enormous opportunities for the whole of the United Kingdom. The new green economy, including a green investment bank, is at the heart of this Government’s commitments on energy and climate change alongside its role in the wider economy. This Government have also made commitments to increasing opportunities for small businesses both start up and growth and emphasised its desire for an enterprise-led recovery.
The Government notes the Committee’s comments on the vulnerability of areas outside of London that are heavily dependent on public sector jobs. To help areas and communities particularly affected by reductions in public spending make the transition to private sector-led growth and prosperity, the Government will create a regional growth fund in 2011-12 and 2012-13. This fund will operate in England only and support proposals from private and public-private bodies that create sustainable increases in business employment and growth. A White Paper later in the summer will set out details of these proposals.
The Yorkshire and the Humber Regional Committee report—Work of Yorkshire Forward
The Government agree with the Committee that Yorkshire Forward has played a part in tackling structural economic problems in Yorkshire and the Humber. However, the Government also note the Committee’s concerns that the Regional Development Agency has moved away from its core role and has taken on too many diffuse responsibilities.
The Government are committed to renewing and strengthening local economies and reorganising the delivery of economic development to ensure a focused, targeted delivery of services in areas where it can have the most benefit.
The Government intend to abolish Regional Development Agencies through the Public Bodies Bill and enable elected local authorities, working with business, to lead economic development through new Local Enterprise Partnerships. A White Paper later in the summer will set out details of these proposals.
London Development Agency (Savings 2010-11)
I have written to the Mayor of London to confirm that the London Development Agency will provide £40 million in savings from their budget for 2010-11.
This follows the announcement by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury on 24 May 2010 that the other eight regional development agencies would contribute savings of £270 million in 2010-11.
A copy of my letter addressed to the Mayor of London dated 6 July 2010 has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
Following a ruling by the Supreme Court and the passage of temporary asset-freezing legislation in February 2010, the Government are today introducing the Terrorist Asset-Freezing etc Bill in the House of Lords to put the UK’s terrorist asset-freezing regime on a secure legislative footing. The Bill will be published tomorrow.
The Bill has been informed by a public consultation exercise on draft legislation that was launched by the previous Government. The Government are today publishing by Command Paper the consultation responses received and the Government’s response.
The payment of state benefits to the spouses of designated persons
As a result of concerns raised in consultation responses and in Parliament during the discussion of emergency asset-freezing legislation and in the light of a recent European Court of Justice ruling, the Government are from today removing restrictions imposed by the previous Government on the payment of state benefits to the spouses of people who are subject to an asset-freeze (designated persons).
This Government do not believe that the asset-freezing regime should affect state benefits paid to the spouses or partners of designated persons. They do not believe that such restrictions are necessary to prevent terrorist finance and they are concerned at the impact they may have on other family members and on family life.
The Government are embedding this change in law by including a provision in the Bill to clarify that payments of state benefits to the spouses or partners of people designated by the Treasury under the UK’s domestic asset-freezing regime are not caught by asset-freezing provisions. These payments will therefore no longer have to be made under licence from the Treasury.
The Government believe that this approach will ensure that the asset-freezing regime is fairer and more proportionate, while remaining effective in preventing terrorist finance.
announced at the emergency Budget, the Government will end the effective requirement to annuitise by age 75 from April 2011. The Treasury has today launched an eight-week consultation on the details of this change. This consultation document sets out proposals that will simplify the treatment of retirement savings and reduce complexity for individuals as well as for pension and annuity providers.
This consultation is being conducted in accordance with the code of practice on consultation and will run from 15 July 2010 until 10 September 2010 inclusive.
Copies of the document are available on the live consultations page of the Treasury website and have been deposited in the Library of the House.
Communities and Local Government
East Midlands, South East and West Midlands Regional Committee
This statement provides a Government response in relation to the following reports:
East Midlands Regional Committee inquiry into “Does the East Midlands get a Fair Share of Funding” published 26 March 2010 (HC 104-I, Session 2009-2010).
South East Regional Committee inquiry into “Housing in the South East” published on 7 April 2010 (HC 403, Session 2009-2010).
West Midlands Regional Committee inquiry into “Planning for the Future: Housing and Economic Development in the West Midlands” published 8 April 2010 (HC 421, Session 2009-2010).
West Midlands Regional Committee inquiry into “Making the Voice of the West Midlands heard: the Work of the Committee, and the future for the Region” published 8 April 2010 (HC 528, Session 2009-2010).
The dissolution of Parliament in April 2010 did not allow sufficient time for a formal Government response to be sent to these Committees, which following a statement made by the Leader of the House on 26 May 2010 will not be re-enacted.
The Government’s response
The Committees’ reports were written against the backcloth of the previous administration’s priorities. The creation of the coalition Government has meant that the policy context has changed significantly for some issues, which the Committees have highlighted. “The Coalition: our programme for government”, outlines the Government’s position on these and other relevant issues. As a consequence the Government do not intend to respond in detail to each of the recommendations. The Government acknowledge the reports of each of the Committees and thank the Committee members and witnesses for their contributions.
The East Midlands Regional Committee report—Does the East Midlands get a fair share of funding.
This was a cross-cutting report and key themes were:
Review departmental funding formulae, especially health and police.
Review transport funding and push for rail electrification.
Review timeliness of population statistics used in funding allocation methodology.
Encouragement of continued partnership working.
The report claimed that the East Midlands did not get its fair share of funding and the coalition is concerned about fairness. However, the Government believe that the most urgent issue facing the country is tackling the budget deficit and therefore all Government funding will be closely scrutinised and public expenditure will reduce over the next five years. The announcements in the Budget on 22 June were an important part of that process; in addition, the Government have published their proposed approach to the Spending Review 2010. The spending review, due to conclude in the autumn, will set spending limits for every Government Department for the period 2011-12 to 2014-15. To ensure that resources are prioritised within tighter budgets, Departments will be asked to prioritise their main programmes against a tough set of criteria to ensure value for money in public spending. The Government are determined to take decisions in a way that is in line with their values of freedom, fairness and responsibility. Therefore the Government will:
Deliver its guarantee that health spending will increase in real terms in each year of the Parliament, and that 0.7% of GNI will be spent on overseas aid by 2013;
Limit, as far as possible, the impact of reductions in spending on the poorest and most vulnerable in society, and on those regions heavily dependent on the public sector;
Protect, as far as possible, the spending that generates high economic returns;
Make further savings to fund the priorities set out in their programme.
As part of the spending review process the Public Expenditure Committee will ensure the Government take the time to consider collectively the effect of different options on its agreed priorities, and on different groups of society. Over the summer, the Public Expenditure Committee will test and challenge Departments’ plans, and ensure that they respond to external engagement.
The South East Regional Committee report—Housing in the South East.
The Government share the Committee’s conclusion that housing is crucial to the well-being of the economy and population of south east England. They further believe that development is necessary if it is to help people meet their aspirations to own their homes. That is why the Government intend to provide incentives for local authorities to deliver sustainable development, including for new homes and businesses.
The Government do not agree however that an appropriate level of development is best achieved through the use of Whitehall-imposed targets, a belief which underpins many of the report’s conclusions and recommendations. That is why we are taking steps to abolish regional strategies and regional housing targets. The Government believe that, rather than their prescribing the number and location of homes or requiring reviews of the green belt where there is no local desire to do so, local people in villages, towns and cities should be able to develop their own vision for the places in which they live. It is committed to working with local people to achieve this by, for example, enhancing community involvement in drawing up local plans, allowing local authorities to benefit financially when they facilitate new housing and enabling community-owned local housing trusts.
The West Midlands Regional Committee report—Planning for the Future: Housing and Economic Development in the West Midlands.
Most of the Committee’s recommendations relate to regional strategies and the Government consider that housing and planning decisions are best made at the local level. Consequently, it is returning decision-making powers on housing and planning to local councils by abolishing regional strategies through the Decentralisation and Localism Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech on 25 May 2010.
The Government have a vision for a simpler more efficient and transparent planning system which will support and enable the investment, economic growth and housing that the country needs to take us out of recession. A framework of incentives will ensure communities receive a share in the benefits of housing development and not just the costs.
Future public expenditure for housing will be considered in the spending review, but the Government will provide mechanisms to bring empty homes back into use and create new Local Housing Trusts that will make it simpler for communities to provide homes for local people. They also intend to explore and promote a range of measures to meet housing needs including the promotion of shared ownership schemes and helping social tenants and others to own their own home.
The Government encourage all local authorities to share best practice in developing innovative approaches to attracting new investment in housing. It also encourages all local authorities and sub-regional partnerships to engage with their partners, residents, and other interested parties when making decisions about future plans and investment.
The West Midlands Regional Committee report—Making the Voice of the West Midlands heard: the Work of the Committee, and the future for the Region.
The Government have confirmed that they do not intend to re-establish Regional Committees. The Committee considered regional governance structures and further consideration of these issues will take place through the fundamental review of the role of Government, which will be completed as part of the spending review.
Culture, Media and Sport
Broadband Industry Day
On 8 June 2010, Official Report, columns 5-6WS, I set out a number of actions the Government are taking to promote rapid roll-out of superfast broadband. As announced on 8 June, I am today publishing a discussion paper setting out our thinking on broadband providers gaining access to other utilities’ infrastructure and inviting views on the most effective ways to achieve it. This coincides with an Industry Day being organised today by Broadband Delivery UK.
At the Industry Day, Broadband Delivery UK is providing further details of the Government’s approach to delivery of the commitment to make a service level of 2Mbps available to those parts of the country still without a basic level of access and the approach to the selection of the locations for the three rural market testing projects that will bring superfast broadband to rural areas.
A copy of the discussion paper will be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.
Energy and Climate Change
Draft Energy National Policy Statements (Consultation)
Today, I am announcing that the Government will be launching a re-consultation in the autumn on the draft Energy National Policy Statements following the consultation undertaken by the previous Administration earlier this year, and in particular due to changes which have been made to the Appraisal of Sustainability for the Overarching Energy National Policy Statement. The revised statements will give investors the certainty they need to bring forward proposals to maintain security of supply and ensure progress towards decarbonisation and plans for the first new nuclear power station to begin generating electricity by 2018 remain on course. We intend to present the finalised statements to Parliament for ratification next spring. A detailed implementation plan for planning reform on major infrastructure—including transitional arrangements and a revised timetable—will be published later in the summer.
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science
The 2009-10 Annual Report and Accounts for the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science was laid before Parliament today.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
European Union: Explanatory Memoranda 9 June 2010 - 9 July 2010
Further to my written ministerial statement of 21 June, Official Report, columns 4-5WS. In the interest of the House and on behalf of Government I am depositing in the Library a full list of explanatory memoranda submitted by the Government from 9 June to 9 July. The House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee has yet to be established and has not met during this period. Meetings of the Lords Select Committee on the European Union commenced on 29 June 2010.
I would invite Members to examine this list and to raise any questions of policy in the usual way or via correspondence. It is vital that the House have a chance to scrutinise the work of Government and to consider policy. This is particularly true of our EU business.
Overseas Doctors (Out-of-hours Services)
I have today laid before Parliament the Government’s response to the House of Commons Health Committee’s report “The use of overseas doctors in providing out-of-hours services: Fifth Report of Session 2009-10” which was published on 8 April 2010.
This Government are committed to ensuring that foreign healthcare professionals are not allowed to work in the national health service unless they have proven their competence and language skills, and we are working with the General Medical Council and others to explore a number of options to put a stop to foreign doctors slipping through the net.
In particular, we plan to explore how the proposed NHS Commissioning Board could oversee a more effective system for undertaking checks on language knowledge of primary care practitioners to address the historic lack of consistency in the application of checks by primary care trusts.
The Government also share the concerns raised by the Committee that since 2004 there have been serious failures in out-of-hours services, both on the part of the Government of the day to secure good value for money from the 2004 reforms and on the part of some primary care trusts to monitor the quality of out-of-hours services effectively since then. This situation has been compounded by a lack of clarity on responsibility between commissioners and providers and little or no integration of out-of-hours care with urgent care.
The Government are committed to providing universal access to high-quality urgent care services 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including out-of-hours services. Our vision for urgent care will be to replace the ad hoc unco-ordinated system that has developed in England over the last 13 years.
We will help the public to better understand what urgent care services are available to them by improving information to support choice and accountability and introducing a new single telephone number to provide consistent clinical assessment at point of contact and direct patients to the right service, first time. The proposed new NHS Commissioning Board will also have a role in ensuring that those commissioning out-of-hours services ensure that contracts with out-of-hours providers detail rigorous standards in respect of the recruitment, induction and training that doctors should receive and that there is more effective contract monitoring.
On 28 June 2010 the Home Secretary set out our proposals for an annual limit on the number of non-EU economic migrants admitted into the UK to live and work, including an interim limit for the tier 1 (general) and tier 2 (general) categories of the points-based-system.
On the same date we laid a Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules (HC 59) to implement the interim limit for the tier 1 (general) category, the category for highly skilled workers who do not require a job offer before coming to the UK.
In the case of tier 2 (general), the category for sponsored skilled workers with a job offer, the interim limit will be applied by limiting the number of certificates of sponsorship which licensed tier 2 (general) sponsors are authorised to issue. We previously considered that this does not require changes to the immigration rules. However, subsequent legal decisions have made the position less clear. For the avoidance of doubt, I am laying changes today which make explicit provision for the Secretary of State to limit both the number of certificates of sponsorship that may be assigned to points based system sponsors overall during any particular period, and the number of certificates of sponsorship that may be assigned to individual sponsors.
As the Home Secretary set out in her statement on 28 June 2010, the total number of certificates of sponsorship that sponsors are authorised to issue under tier 2 (general) will be set at a level that achieves a reduction of 1,300 in the number of migrants admitted under this category in the equivalent period a year previously. The tier 2 interim limit will not apply to intra-company transferees, ministers of religion or to elite sportspersons, nor will it apply to dependants of tier 2 migrants.
The UK Border Agency’s sponsor management team has already contacted sponsors in connection with the implementation of this interim limit, and will be writing to each sponsor individually to advise them of how the interim limit affects their allocation of certificates of sponsorship.
Crossrail: Annual Update
During the passage of the Crossrail Act through Parliament, a commitment was given to Parliament that a statement would be published at least every 12 months until the completion of the construction of Crossrail, setting out information about the project’s funding and finances.
In line with this commitment, I am therefore publishing this statement within 12 months of the previous statement, which was published on 16 July 2009, and set out below the information required to fulfil the commitment to Parliament:
Total funding amounts provided to Crossrail Limited by the Department for Transport and TfL in relation to the construction of Crossrail to the end of the period (22 July 2008 to 29 May 2010)
Expenditure incurred (including committed spend not yet paid out) by Crossrail Limited in relation to the construction of Crossrail in the period (31 May 2009 to 29 May 2010) (excluding recoverable VAT on land and property purchases)
Total expenditure incurred (including committed spend not yet paid out) by Crossrail Limited in relation to the construction of Crossrail to the end of the period (22July 2008 to 29 May 2010) (excluding recoverable VAT on land and property purchases)
The amounts realised by the disposal of any land or property for the purposes of the construction of Crossrail by the Secretary of State, TfL or Crossrail Limited in the period covered by the statement
The numbers above are drawn from Crossrail Limited’s accounts. The expenditure incurred amount includes both committed spend that has not yet been paid out and monies already paid out in the relevant periods.
Crossrail will support economic growth for London and the UK, and, as the coalition agreement made clear, is supported by Government. Recent work to update the business case indicates that the project will generate high value for money.
At this relatively early stage in the project, with several of the main construction contracts currently out to tender, Crossrail Limited continues to forecast a range of possible out-turn costs which indicate that the project can be delivered within the available funding. To ensure that these costs remain affordable and that every pound spent on Crossrail offers value for money, Crossrail Limited are engaged in an ongoing programme of value engineering, risk avoidance and mitigation and indirect cost reduction. I expect this work to report later in the year.
Work and Pensions
Social Fund Reports (2009-10)
I am pleased to announce the publication of the annual report by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on the Social Fund 2009-10 and the Social Fund Commissioner’s annual report 2009-10.
The Secretary of State’s annual report on the Social Fund for 2009-10 was published today and has been laid before Parliament. Copies are available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.
The report records that total gross expenditure in 2009-10, excluding winter fuel payments, was over £1.3 billion. This figure included over 263,000 non-repayable community care grants and almost 4 million interest-free loans together worth £850 million. Also, cold weather payments worth £290 million, funeral payments worth £47 million and sure start maternity grants worth £139 million were paid.
In addition an estimated 9.1 million households benefited from a winter fuel payment at an estimated cost of around £2.7 billion.
The Social Fund Commissioner’s report has also been published today and copies are available in the Libraries of both Houses.