Written Ministerial Statements
Monday 26 July 2010
Business, Innovation and Skills
Consultation on Business Finance Issues
Coming into the recovery, the Government’s focus is on creating the conditions for balanced and sustainable growth in the private sector. In order that UK business can finance this growth, we are seeking to address the challenges and risks faced by businesses in ensuring that they can access the finance they require.
At the heart of these challenges is ensuring stable financial conditions for business. The coalition Government have taken decisive action to tackle the fiscal deficit, which is the first priority for restoring business confidence. But businesses also need sustainable and secure sources of finance for investment. Unless the financial system is reformed it may fail to deliver the finance that is vital to this task.
Today, I am publishing a Command Paper, jointly written with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor. This discussion document sets out lessons learnt from the past and some of the challenges ahead. We would like to encourage businesses, investors and lenders to participate in this consultation as it will inform the Government’s future response to the issues raised.
In “Financing a private sector recovery”, we state that the Government would like more diverse sources of finance available. The paper explores a broad range of options, including trade finance, greater application of the mutual model, more use of equity and a responsible return to securitisation. The paper also addresses the success of existing Government schemes, such as the enterprise finance guarantee, and whether they should be improved or extended.
But it is emphasised that industry and market-led solutions are the preferred response to any market failures. Only where appropriate will Government assist in providing solutions, in conjunction with business.
The paper is being published today on BIS’s website: www.bis.gov.uk/businessfinance. The deadline for responses is 20 September 2010.
Regional Development Agencies (Board Members)
I would like to announce my decision to offer continued terms to 19 board members whose first term of appointment finishes on the 13 December 2010. I have also decided, following approval from the Commissioner for Public Appointments, to offer extensions to a further 21 board members who are finishing their second or third term in office. The names of the board member are:
Advantage West Midlands
Angela Maxwell OBE
Sue Prince OBE
East of England Development Agency
East Midlands Development Agency
Michael Seals MBE
Prof Philip Tasker
Northwest Regional Development Agency
Anthony McDermott MBE
Prof John Brooks
Peter Allen MBE
Joe Dwek CBE
John Merry CBE
One North East
Prof Christopher Higgins
Alison Thain OBE
South East England Development Agency
Dr Dolores Byrne OBE
Southwest Regional Development Agency
Nick Buckland OBE
Linda Pollard OBE JP DL
*Extension granted for a year from December 2009.
**Extension already granted for six months until June 2011.
***Extension granted for a year from December 2009.
1The Commissioner has granted extended terms up until December 2011 when the board member will have served the maximum 10 years in office.
The coalition Government have made the decision to support the creation of Local Enterprise Partnerships to replace RDAs. Final closure of RDAs is likely to be completed by 31 March 2012 following legislation. On that basis the decision was made not to continue with any further board member recruitment. The continued terms for board members are necessary to ensure; i) that the RDA chairs are able effectively to manage their board membership up until closure, and; ii) that membership does not fall below the minimum requirement of eight, as stated in the Regional Development Agencies Act 1998. The board members have a valuable role to play in helping manage the abolition of the RDAs and the transition to the new arrangements, in which their skills and experience will continue to be a valuable asset.
I have placed biographies of the board members in the Libraries of both Houses. I can confirm that the continued terms have been made in accordance with the Commissioner for Public Appointments code of practice.
The Economic and Financial Affairs Council was held in Brussels on 13 July 2010. The following items were discussed:
EU financial supervision
ECOFIN agreed a revised position on the Commission’s proposals to establish a European Systemic Risk Board and three new European Supervisory Authorities. The Council:
Reaffirmed its December 2009 agreement that supervision should remain national, that the proposed EU roles in mediation and crisis should be subject to safeguards to protect member states fiscal responsibilities, and that EU direct powers over firms should not override national supervisors’ discretionary decisions.
Rejected demands by the European Parliament (EP) for an EU resolution fund and EU supervision of cross-border firms.
Reaffirmed that the European Banking Authority will be based in London.
Sought to limit and tie down the role suggested by the EP for the European Supervisory Authorities in banning products. As a result, the Council agreed that such powers would:
be specifically agreed by Council and EP in legislative proposals;
be subject to a sunset to require the authority to regularly reaffirm its decision;
include an appeal procedure requiring a qualified-majority vote to support a ban if a member state requests it.
The presidency will now take forward negotiations on the basis of the new mandate, and will seek to find agreement ahead of the September EP plenary vote. The UK supports this new ECOFIN consensus, and looks forward to a swift agreement with the EP and the establishment of the bodies by January 2011.
Programme of the Belgian Presidency
The Belgian presidency presented the ECOFIN work programme for the next six months.
Follow up to the European Council:
Commission communication on “Reinforcing economic policy co-ordination”
The Commission presented its paper as a contribution to the ongoing work on economic governance. The UK believes the paper provides helpful input and agrees that robust national frameworks are an important part of the solution—independence of national statistical and fiscal authorities is key, as shown by the creation of the Office for Budget Responsibility. Further work will continue by the European Commission, with ECOFIN returning to this issue in September.
Broad Economic Policy Guidelines
Following initial agreement at ECOFIN and the European Council in June, the broad economic policy guidelines (BEPGs) were formally adopted. The Government are content with the text, following additional language at the June European Council making clear that country-specific recommendations under the BEPGs
“shall be fully in line with relevant treaty provisions and EU rules and shall not alter member states’ competences, for example in areas such as education”.
Stability and Growth Pact
The Council adopted a raft of decisions on excessive deficits including launching excessive deficit procedures for Bulgaria, Denmark, Cyprus and Finland. In addition, the Council noted that since December 2009, effective action has been taken by Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Spain, France, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia and Slovenia. Following the emergency Budget on 22 June, ECOFIN agreed that the UK is also now taking effective action to further increase the size of fiscal consolidation in 2010-11 and significantly strengthen the planned pace of deficit reduction over the medium-term.
Adoption of the euro by Estonia
Following discussions at the June ECOFIN and European Council, euro-area member states voted to adopt regulations which confirm the introduction of the euro in Estonia on 1 January 2011.
AOB: Report on EMU public finances
The annual report on public finances in the European Monetary Union was presented to Ministers. The report covers consolidation strategies and the link between macroeconomic imbalances and fiscal policy.
The Government have today published a consultation document outlining the coalition Government’s proposals for reforming the framework of financial regulation in the UK. This builds on the statement I made in the House on 17 June 2010.
“A new approach to financial regulation: judgment, focus and stability” sets out in more detail plans to overhaul the UK’s financial regulatory framework, including providing the Bank of England with control of macro-prudential regulation and oversight of micro-prudential regulation.
The UK banking system is emerging from the most serious financial crisis in over a hundred years. Despite making three authorities—the Bank of England (the Bank), the Financial Services Authority (FSA) and the Treasury—collectively responsible for financial stability, the UK’s “tripartite” system failed in a number of important ways. For example, it failed to identify the problems that were building up in the financial system; to take steps to mitigate them before they led to significant instability in financial markets; and to deal adequately with the crisis when it did break.
The document describes the future arrangements for the framework of financial regulation that will address these failings head on. These include proposals to create an independent Financial Policy Committee in the Bank of England and a new prudential regulation authority as a subsidiary of the Bank. In addition to the proposed changes to macro and micro prudential regulation, the consultation document sets out in more detail plans to create a dedicated consumer protection and markets authority (CPMA), with a primary statutory responsibility to promote confidence in financial services and markets.
The document also sets out details of proposals for approaching future financial crises. One of the failings of the UK system currently is the fact that no single institution has the responsibility, authority or powers to monitor the system as a whole, identify potentially destabilising trends and vulnerabilities, and respond to them with concerted action. The document outlines how the Government intend to rectify this.
The document presents a range of issues and questions for consultation. The Government will, on the basis of this consultation and continuing policy development, present more detailed proposals—including draft legislation—for further consultation early in 2011.
The Government intend to introduce legislation to implement their proposals in mid-2011, and in my statement to this House on 17 June 2010 I committed to ensuring the passage of the necessary primary legislation within two years.
A copy of “A new approach to financial regulation: judgment, focus and stability” has been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses and published on the HM Treasury website.
G20 Framework for Strong, Sustainable and Balanced Growth
As part of the next phase of the G20 framework for strong, sustainable and balanced growth, HM Treasury has today submitted a new national template to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), setting out its national policy frameworks, programmes and projections for the medium term.
This is in accordance with the updated mutual assessment process agreed by G20 leaders at the Toronto summit, in which G20 countries will provide information on any policy revisions made since the beginning of the year and the IMF will update its analysis of how these national and regional policy frameworks fit together.
Copies of the document are available in the Vote Office and have been deposited in the Library of the House.
Counter-Terrorist Asset-Freezing Regime
The Government take the threat of terrorism seriously. However, measures taken to counter the threat of terrorist activity must be done in a fair and proportionate way.
The previous Government undertook to report to Parliament on a quarterly basis on the operation of the UK’s counter-terrorism asset-freezing regime. We believe this is essential to ensure transparency and accountability of the regime and we will continue to report to Parliament each quarter. There is a clause to this effect in the Terrorist Asset-Freezing etc Bill.
This report covers the period April to June 20101
In the quarter April to June 2010, the Treasury gave no new directions under the Terrorism (United Nations Measures) Order 2009.
During this quarter, the EU added five people to EC Regulation 881/2002, implementing the UN al-Qaeda and Taliban asset-freezing regime established under UNSCR 1267.
As of 30 June 2010, a total of 202 accounts containing just under £360,0002 of suspected terrorist funds were frozen in the UK.
Reviews under the Terrorism Orders
The Treasury keeps domestic asset-freezing cases under review and completed nine reviews in this quarter. From these nine reviews, six persons had their designations revoked.
Maintaining an effective licensing system is important to ensure the overall proportionality and fairness of the asset-freezing regime, whether the individuals concerned are subject to an asset-freeze in accordance with a UN or EC listing, or domestic terrorism legislation. A licensing framework is put in place for each individual on a case-by-case basis. The key objective of the licensing system is to strike an appropriate balance between minimising the risk of diversion of funds to terrorism and meeting the human rights and humanitarian needs of affected individuals and their families. Licences contain certain appropriate controls to protect against the risk of the diversion of funds for terrorist finance.
Thirteen licences were issued this quarter in relation to eight persons subject to an asset-freeze under the al-Qaeda and Taliban and domestic terrorism regimes.
In addition, five general licences were issued. General licences cover both the al-Qaeda and domestic terrorism regimes, and are important in ensuring an effective and proportionate licensing regime by removing the need for individual licence applications in specific areas. These general licences are accessible on the Treasury’s website:
The previous Government committed to reporting on proceedings taken for any offences under the asset-freezing regime. We agree that it is important to continue to report on proceedings for accountability and transparency, and we will therefore continue to do so.
In the quarter April to June 2010, no proceedings were taken for breaches of the prohibitions of the Terrorism Orders or the Al-Qaida and Taliban (Asset-Freezing) Regulations.
The Terrorist Asset-Freezing etc Bill: The Government have introduced and published new terrorist asset-freezing legislation. This was reported in the previous written ministerial statement that I laid on 15 July 2010, Official Report, column 36WS.
1The detail that can be provided to the House on a quarterly basis is subject to the need to avoid the identification, directly or indirectly, of personal or operationally sensitive information.
2This figure reflects account balances at time of freezing and includes approximately $58,000 of suspected terrorist funds frozen in the UK. This has been converted using exchange rates as of 21/07/10. Future fluctuations in the exchange rate may impact on the contribution this sum makes to future totals of suspected terrorist funds frozen.
IMF Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust
The Government have today finalised an agreement to lend up to the equivalent of $2 billion (approximately £1.3 billion) in special drawing rights to the International Monetary Fund’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust. Copies of the agreement have been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.
Communities and Local Government
Fire Service College (Key Performance Indicators 2010-11
The following key performance indicators have been agreed for the Fire Service College as part of the 2010-11 business planning round and performance against them will be reported in the college’s annual report and accounts:
Achieve an operating profit before interest.
Achieve 90% UK Fire and Rescue Service delegate satisfaction for achievement of learning objectives.
Achieve 75% UK Fire and Rescue Service delegate satisfaction for learning experience.
Achieve a reduction in fixed staff costs compared to the Financial Year 2009-10.
Achieve a net reduction in staff sick absence days compared to the financial year 2009-10.
These indicators reflect the fundamental purpose of the Fire Service College, which is to deliver cost effective safety critical operational, leadership and command training, and professional development to the UK Fire and Rescue Service by applying consistent national standards, in order to enhance Fire and Rescue Service capability, operational effectiveness and safety.
Removing Planning Barriers (Schools)
Today I am underlining our commitment to supporting the creation of new free schools through the planning system.
The new Government are committed to decentralising power, including over planning. Localism should involve both devolving power down to local councils, and going further by devolving power and opportunity down to community groups, neighbourhoods and individual citizens. Our free schools policy is an example of localism and the big society in action—by empowering individuals to come together to improve the educational choices for their children in their local community.
The Secretary of State for Education outlined his proposals for new free schools on 18 June. Teachers, parents and charities will have much greater freedom to set up schools which respond to local needs. We want to encourage competition and innovation, to address the imbalance of opportunity in education and enable schools to develop their own identity. Our approach will increase choice and drive up standards across the country and provide a real opportunity to transform the lives of disadvantaged children.
We know that many individuals and organisations are passionate about improving standards in education, and they will want to take advantage of the new freedoms. But we do not want to squander the opportunities that they represent, for lack of suitable school premises. Neither do we want to strangle proposals with red tape, by putting them through a lengthy and ponderous planning process. So we want to make it easier for promoters of schools to build new premises, or find and if necessary adapt buildings suitable for the needs of a school.
We are already giving a strong message to local planning authorities that they must be more responsive to the needs of their own area. We are empowering them to take more responsibility for planning decision-making, by removing centralised targets and streamlining national planning policy. We are also encouraging them to take a more proactive and positive, collaborative approach to development at the pre-application stage. The best authorities work with applicants to identify the key issues and how they might be resolved, before the planning application is submitted. In this way, they have the opportunity to work with development promoters, to bring about imaginative, but practical solutions, which will benefit their local community. This is what we would like to see happening with new free schools.
It is important, however, for local planning authorities to have a clear policy framework for the decisions they take locally. Through this statement, therefore, I wish to underline that, in determining planning applications, local authorities should:
attach very significant weight to the desirability of establishing new schools and to enabling local people to do so;
adopt a positive and constructive approach towards applications to create new schools, and seek to mitigate any negative impacts of development through the use of planning conditions or planning obligations, as appropriate; and
only refuse planning permission for a new school if the adverse planning impacts on the local area outweigh the desirability of establishing a school in that area.
Local planning authorities and the Planning Inspectorate should take this statement into account as a material consideration when determining planning applications, where it is relevant to do so.
If a local authority nevertheless refuses permission on this basis, the Government will ask the Planning Inspectorate to deal swiftly with any appeal that is lodged.
We shall shortly be consulting on changes to the use classes order to reduce unnecessary regulation and make it easier for buildings currently in other uses to be converted to schools.
These changes to the planning system will allow school promoters to be confident about moving their proposals forward quickly. We expect them to work collaboratively with local authorities to take advantage of the opportunities to benefit local communities, while ensuring sustainable solutions.
This statement sets out our policy approach to support the establishment of new schools until the proposed new national planning framework is in place.
This statement applies to England only.
Culture, Media and Sport
Departmental Arm's Length Bodies
DCMS is responsible for a number of sectors which people are passionate about. From sports through to television, and live music through to museums, DCMS and its public bodies make a real difference to the quality of people’s lives.
Despite being one of the smaller Government Departments, we are responsible for a network of more than 50 public bodies.
In my first few months as Secretary of State I have made it my priority to examine our network of public bodies critically with the aim of improving accountability, transparency and value for money.
In line with the commitments set out in the coalition document, I have been applying the Government’s agreed tests to each of our bodies: does it perform a technical function?; Does it need to be politically impartial?; And does it act independently to establish facts?
This forms part of the work being undertaken across Government, and led by the Cabinet Office, to restore proper accountability for activities funded by public money. Public bodies which do not meet one of the three tests outlined will be bought back into Departments or devolved if their function is necessary or abolished if not. This work will reduce the number of public bodies, increase the transparency and accountability of the remaining few, and ensure more effective delivery of public services.
As a result of this review, I am today announcing my intention to make a number of changes. This will include:
the abolition of the UK Film Council;
the abolition of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council;
the merger of UK Sport and Sport England;
the merger of the National Lottery Commission and Gambling Commission1;
the abolition of the Advisory Council on Libraries and the wind up of the Legal Deposit Advisory Panel.
the abolition of the Advisory Committee on Historic Wreck Sites and the declassification of the Advisory Committee on National Historic Ships; and
declassifying the Theatres Trust so it can act as an independent statutory advisory body.
Further work will be done in discussion with the bodies concerned and other interested parties over the summer to finalise the details and timing of these proposals.
Where bodies are to be abolished we will look to transfer key functions to other existing bodies so as to continue to support our sectors and preserve the necessary expertise. In the case of the Film Council, for example, this will include its current responsibilities for the distribution of lottery funding for films, which will be maintained, as well as support for the certification process which is critical to the film tax relief, which will also be maintained. We will maintain a strong relationship with the British Film Institute.
We will also continue to explore further opportunities to improve the accountability and coherence of our public bodies landscape.
We are looking closely at our responsibility for Heritage and the Built Environment and so are currently considering the role and remit of English Heritage, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the National Heritage Memorial Fund. Additionally, we are considering the role of the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment and exploring opportunities to consolidate its functions. We will also be discussing with the Church of England the merits of declassifying the Churches Conservation Trust so it has greater operational freedom.
In addition, we have reviewed the status of the two public bodies set up to help us deliver a successful games in 2012—the Olympic Delivery Authority and the Olympic Lottery Distributor—and have concluded there is no need to change our existing plans to wind up these organisations following the games.
The Olympic games provide a huge opportunity to boost inbound and domestic tourism and we continue to explore the best way of realising our ambitious goals in this area. As part of this we are considering the status, role and functions of Visit England and Visit Britain. A final decision will be made on this in the autumn as part of the spending review.
Any necessary legislative changes will be made through the Cabinet Office Public Bodies Bill, which is due to be introduced in the autumn.
Where proposed changes have implications for the devolved Administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland we will work closely with them to finalise proposals.
1Subject to a business case.
Exercise Joint Warrior 4-15 October 2010
Joint Warrior is a bi-annual tri-service major exercise with invited NATO and allied nations and usually takes place over a two-week period in the spring and autumn. Its aim is to provide high-quality joint collective training and pre-deployment training in a multi-threat environment for participating units and their staffs. Each unit will operate from various bases in the UK and abroad but specifically there is an increase in air and land activity across Wales, Scotland and the border regions of England, as well as an increase in maritime activity in the north and west of Scotland.
These exercises are routine and I therefore wish to update the House that it is my intention to continue to write only to individual Members who raise specific concerns.
Joint Warrior is a complex exercise which requires careful planning and co-ordination to minimise the possibility of environmental damage. I would like to reassure the House that in order to achieve this, the exercise planning teams will continue to work closely with local authorities, various national rural agencies, landowners and other interested parties.
Collective training is a key priority for defence. It is a vital component in the UK armed forces ability to be able to generate forces at the right time, with the right skills and in the right numbers and Joint Warrior has the additional benefit which also gives UK forces the ability to train and operate with other coalition countries. The next exercise, Joint Warrior 102, commences on 4 October 2010 and a press release will be issued for public information.
Today I have launched a consultation on our proposals for school funding in 2011-12, including more detailed proposals for a pupil premium as announced in the document “The Coalition: our programme for government”.
A good education is the key to improving young people’s life chances so that they go on into adulthood with the skills and confidence for success. This is particularly important for pupils from a deprived background yet it is these pupils that are being let down the most by the school system.
Over the past decade, the gulf in achievement between the rich and the poor has widened, while the attainment gap between fee-paying schools and state schools has doubled. Just two out of 57 countries now have a wider attainment gap between the highest and lowest achieving pupils.
Young children who are in the bottom 20% of attainment in the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile are six times more likely to be in the bottom 20% at key stage 1 than their peers. For disadvantaged pupils, a gap opens at KS1 and increases over time. Pupils entitled to free school meals (FSM) are only a third as likely to achieve five good GCSEs as their peers.
These gaps persist through to higher education. A pupil who has been entitled to FSM is less than half as likely to go on to study at university as their peers. In the last year for which we have data, out of a cohort of 600,000 pupils, 80,000 pupils were eligible for free school meals, and of those, just 45 made it to Oxbridge.
Addressing this disparity is a top priority of the coalition Government and it is for this reason that we are implementing a pupil premium, to ensure that extra funding is targeted at those deprived pupils that most need it.
The coalition document specified that this will be:
“a significant premium for disadvantaged children from outside the schools budget”.
The consultation sets out our proposed methodology for allocating the premium, including options on the best deprivation indicator to use. This money will not be ring-fenced at school level as I believe that schools are in the best position to decide how the premium should be used to support their pupils.
We are also using this consultation to set out our proposals for possible additional support for service children, as set out in “The Coalition: our programme for government”. Furthermore, I have included proposals for additional support for looked after children, who have consistently low attainment but are often not picked up by deprivation indicators and so would not benefit from the pupil premium.
The consultation document also outlines our intentions for school funding for 2011-12. We will continue with the current methodology for the distribution of school funding to allow for a clear and transparent introduction of the pupil premium, but we also recognise that the funding system could be more reflective of pupil characteristics and so we intend to review the system for funding schools beyond 2011-12.
In addition, from April 2011 we will require all local authorities to implement the early years single funding formula, in order to improve fairness and transparency in the system and to support diversity of provision.
Copies of this publication have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
Energy and Climate Change
Home Energy Efficiency Scheme (Regulations Amendment)
Today I am announcing that the Government will be amending the Home Energy Efficiency Scheme Regulations. The Government are committed to the current budget and this amendment regulation is intended to ensure the scheme for this year is delivered within the planned resources. The amendment regulation obliges the scheme manager to refuse further new applications at the point when all resources available for any given year have been awarded. The amendment will ensure that the scheme can provide measures for all customers whose applications have been accepted and that it can manage the Warm Front budget effectively in advance of the spending review outcome. The scheme currently operates a control strategy to manage the process between application and installation of measures to ensure that expenditure is kept within the available budget. In the event that the budget becomes fully committed before the end of the financial year, we will ensure that the installation of heating and insulation measures for successful applicants will be fully delivered.
Evidence Check: Homeopathy (Government Response)
We are today laying before Parliament the Government’s response (Cm 7883) to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report “Evidence Check: Homeopathy”, which was published on 22 February 2010.
Complementary and alternative medicine, including homeopathy, have a long tradition, and very vocal proponents and opponents. The Committee’s report sets out evidence and opinion on each side, with a strong focus on efficacy as being one of the main criteria by which it would expect national health service decisions to be made.
The Government welcome this report. We remain of the view that the local national health service and clinicians are best placed to make decisions on what treatment is appropriate for their patients. We expect local clinicians to make decisions on what is best for their patients taking account of safety, evidence of clinical and cost-effectiveness (where it exists) and the availability of suitably regulated/qualified practitioners.
We remain committed to providing good quality information available about complementary and alternative treatments so that clinicians and consumers can make informed decisions if they are considering such treatments.
Today’s publication is in the Library and copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office.
NHS White Paper (Supporting Information)
Today I am publishing two further supporting documents to the national health service White Paper, “Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS” (Cm 7881) which was published on 12 July.
The first document, “Regulating Healthcare Providers”, provides further detail on the principles of the policies set out in the White Paper, and seeks views from the public and external partners on some of the questions arising out of them.
The White Paper set out a vision for a national health service centred around the needs of patients, focusing consistently on improving quality of care. One of the fundamental features of the proposals is to free providers from political interference and to establish a stable, transparent regulatory environment.
“Regulating Healthcare Providers” therefore sets out proposals to free providers from central Government controls and to develop Monitor, the current regulator for foundation trusts, as an independent economic regulator for health and adult social care.
Under our proposals, all remaining NHS trusts will become or be part of a foundation trust, free from the state’s operational control and not subject to the Secretary of State’s direction. We will create an environment where staff and organisations enjoy greater freedom and clearer incentives to flourish. All providers should be able to compete on a fair playing field, so that they succeed or fail according to the quality of care for patients and the value they offer the taxpayer.
Monitor will be responsible for regulating all providers to promote efficient, financially sustainable service provision. It will operate independently of Government so that providers have confidence in a stable, rules-based system—without the risk of political interference—to make long-term investments in services. Monitor will have powers to license providers of NHS services and core functions to regulate prices for NHS services, where needed, to promote competition, and to support service continuity.
The document seeks views on a number of questions by 11 October.
Today, I am also publishing the report of the Department’s review of its arm’s-length bodies.
The publication, sets out our proposals for arm's-length bodies in the health and social care sector. These proposals form part of the cross-Government strategy to increase accountability and transparency, and to reduce the number and cost of quangos.
The Government’s proposed reforms of the NHS, set out in “Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS”, will establish more autonomous institutions, with greater freedoms, clear duties and transparency in their responsibilities to patients. Power will be devolved to the front-line. Liberating the NHS will fundamentally change the role of the Department and those bodies accountable to it. Changes to the arm’s-length body sector must reflect these wider reforms.
There is also an economic imperative for change. The Government have guaranteed that spending on health will increase in real terms in every year of this Parliament and are committed to increasing the proportion of resource available for front-line services, to meet the current financial challenges and the future costs of demographic and technological change. This means that we need to make significant cuts in the costs of health bureaucracy. Over the next four years, the Government will reduce NHS administrative costs by more than 45%, freeing up resources for front-line care.
The review has assessed arm’s-length bodies in light of both the current financial challenges and the strategy for the NHS set out in “Equity and excellence: Liberating the NHS”. Only those functions which need to be carried out a national level to support the Department’s clear objectives should remain in the sector. Functions that are better delivered by other parts of the system should be devolved to the right level, and organisations that carry out these functions should be abolished. Shifting functions from public bodies back into the Department, or to those who are closer to local needs and are independent of the state, will ensure more direct accountability to local people, Parliament and Ministers.
By ensuring that functions are delivered in the right place, the sector will be streamlined to cut costs and remove duplication and unnecessary burdens on the front line. The review will achieve a significant reduction in the number and cost of public bodies.
The Department will impose tight governance and accountability over the cost and scope of its remaining arm’s-length bodies. In future, arm’s-length bodies’ independence will be exercised within the confines of clear and agreed functions. This is in line with the Government’s wider commitment to increase transparency and accountability.
The report details the proposals for each of the Department’s bodies. Where changes require primary legislation, these will be enacted through legislation which will be introduced in this Parliament.
Proposals for the General Social Care Council (GSCC), the regulatory body for social workers, are included in the report. My predecessor issued a written ministerial statement on 4 November 2009, Official Report, column 41WS about the publication of the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence’s (CHRE) report and recommendations on the General Social Care Council (GSCC) function relating to conduct. As part of its response to CHRE’s report the previous Administration announced that the GSCC would report on its progress to Ministers at the end of March. This report has now been received and is published today.
While the GSCC has made good progress over preceding months, the reality is that the costs of maintaining an independent regulator for social workers are prohibitive and we therefore propose to transfer the function of regulating social workers to the Health Professions Council, which will accordingly be renamed to reflect its remit.
These publications will be of interest to anyone working in the health and social care sector, to taxpayers, and to people who use health and social care services.
Copies of today’s publications have been placed in the Library and copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office.
“Regulating Healthcare Providers” can be viewed at:
The report of the arm’s length bodies review can be viewed at:
Office of the Health Professions Adjudicator
The Government have been considering the case for proceeding with work surrounding the Office of the Health Professions Adjudicator (OHPA).
OHPA was established in law in January of this year, but is not yet operationally active. It was anticipated previously that, from April 2011, it was to take over from the General Medical Council (GMC) the role of adjudicating on fitness to practise matters relating to doctors and, in due course, take on the adjudication role in relation to other health professionals from the remaining health regulators.
Having reviewed the case for OHPA the Government are not persuaded that the creation of another body is necessarily the most appropriate and proportionate way forward in terms of adjudication. We believe that steps can be taken to strengthen and modernise existing systems within the GMC to deliver substantially the same benefits as OHPA. The learning from these steps can then be reviewed and, in due course, applied to the other health regulators. We intend to consult with external partners on this approach shortly.
Healthier Food Mark and Government Buying Standards (Food)
Over the last two years, the Department has been developing a scheme to improve the nutritional content and sustainability of food served in the public sector, provisionally known as the Healthier Food Mark. The Department has been working across Government on this, and particularly closely with both the Food Standards Agency and the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). Two pilots, involving over 70 organisations from across the public sector, have been completed.
I am announcing today that the Healthier Food Mark will not be taken forward as a discrete scheme. Instead, the considerable body of evidence and learning from the development of both the nutrition and sustainability criteria will be used to help develop Government buying standards for food procurement in the public sector.
Government buying standards ensure that the public sector procures sustainable goods and services. They are mandatory for central Government Departments and their Executive agencies and are promoted to the wider public sector. The Government buying standards for food will take account of the evidence gained from the pilots of the Healthier Food Mark. DEFRA, working with the Department of Health and other Government Departments, will assess the costs and benefits of a number of options for criteria to be included in the Government buying standards for food to address both nutrition and sustainability. The standards will be consulted on in the autumn.
English Language Requirement (Migrant Spouses)
On 9 June 2010 my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department announced the introduction of a new English language requirement for migrants applying to come to or stay in the UK as a spouse or partner. I wish to inform the House that I am today announcing that this requirement will come into effect on 29 November this year.
Non-European migrants joining a British citizen or non-European national settled in the UK will have to demonstrate a basic command of English as part of the visa application process unless they are a national of a majority English-speaking country. The new language requirement will apply to spouses, civil partners, unmarried partners, same-sex partners, fiancé(e)s and proposed civil partners and will be compulsory for people applying from within the UK, as well as visa applicants overseas.
Migrant spouses and partners will have to demonstrate English language ability at A1 level of the common European framework of reference (speaking and listening), the same level required for skilled workers admitted under the skilled tier of the points-based system. Applicants will be required to provide evidence with their application that they have passed an acceptable English test with one of the UK Border Agency’s approved test providers.
Speaking English promotes integration into British society and broadens opportunities. The new rules will help ensure that migrant spouses are able to participate in British life from the outset and integrate more easily into wider UK society.
We are reviewing English language requirements across the immigration system with a view to tightening the rules further in the future. We will inform the House of our conclusions in due course.
Independent Police Complaints Commission (Annual Report 2009-10)
I am pleased to announce that today my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and my hon. Friend the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury are publishing the annual report of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). Copies of the report have been laid before the House and will be available in the Vote Office.
This is the sixth annual report from the IPCC. The report covers the work of the IPCC during 2009-2010 and includes a discrete chapter on the discharge of their responsibilities in respect of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.
National DNA Ethics Group (Third Annual Report)
I am pleased to announce the publication of the third annual report of the National DNA Database Ethics Group on 29 July 2010. The group was established on 25 July 2007 to provide Ministers with independent ethical advice on the operation and practice of the National DNA Database (NDNAD).
I welcome the consideration given in the report to a number of important issues. The Government share the concerns of the group to ensure the effectiveness of the database and its ethical operation. Merely building as big a database as possible is neither effective nor does it achieve the proper balance between the rights of the individual and the needs of the state. I believe that the Government’s commitment to introducing the protections of the Scottish model achieves that balance and we are committed to introducing legislation to give effect to that, which I hope will address the key concerns around the database
The report can be viewed from 29 July on the website of the independent Forensic Science Regulator and I am arranging for copies to be placed in the Library of the House.
I am today announcing my agreement that salaried mental health judges with suitable experience can be selected to chair Restricted Patients Panel cases in the mental health jurisdiction.
These cases involve patients who are detained in hospital by virtue of a restriction order imposed by the Crown Court or by virtue of being transferred from prison by direction of the Secretary of State. The convention, since the implementation of the Mental Health Act 1983, has been that the tribunal judge chairing the panel will always be a circuit judge, a retired circuit judge or a recorder QC. However, the convention came about at a time when there were no full-time judges in the mental health review tribunal and was designed to provide assurance when this power was first transferred from the Secretary of State to the tribunal that an experienced member of the judiciary would be involved in decisions on whether to direct the discharge of a patient.
There are now full-time salaried judges within the jurisdiction with the necessary experience. Circuit judges and recorder QCs will continue to deal with the majority of cases but authorising some of the salaried mental health judges will increase the pool of available chairs to hear the cases.
Civil Litigation Funding Arrangements
I am today announcing the Government’s intention to consult in the autumn on implementing Lord Justice Jackson’s recommendations on the reform of funding arrangements in his report, “Review of Civil Litigation Costs: Final Report”, published on 14 January 2010. We will be consulting in particular on the reform of conditional fee agreements (CFAs) which should lead to significant costs savings, while still enabling those who need access to justice to obtain it. The Government are therefore taking these proposals forward as a matter of priority.
Lord Justice Jackson was appointed by the then Master of the Rolls in January 2009 to review the rules and principles governing the costs of civil litigation and to make recommendations to promote access to justice at proportionate costs. Sir Rupert’s independent and comprehensive report makes a broad range of significant recommendations for reducing costs in the civil justice system in England and Wales. The Government are very grateful to Sir Rupert for his report.
CFAs have played a role in giving access to justice to a range of people. However, high costs under the existing arrangements have now become a serious concern, particularly in clinical negligence cases against the NHS Litigation Authority and in defamation proceedings.
CFAs are a type of “no win no fee” agreements under which lawyers are not paid if they lose a case, but can charge an uplift on top of their base costs—otherwise known as a “success fee”—if they win. Success fees allow lawyers to cover the costs of cases they take on which do not succeed. The success fee can be up to 100% of base costs. After-the-event (ATE) insurance can be taken out by parties to a CFA funded case to protect them against the risk of having to pay their opponent’s costs if they lose. Under the current arrangements, success fees and ATE premiums can be recovered from the losing opponent in addition to the base costs.
Sir Rupert recommends significant changes to the current arrangements for CFAs. He proposes abolishing the recoverability of both success fees and ATE insurance premiums; this would require primary legislation. In addition, to assist claimants to meet the cost of the success fees for which they would now be liable, he also recommends an increase of 10% in the level of general damages for personal injury, defamation and other tort claims; and a regime of qualified one-way costs shifting in specified proceedings, including personal injury and defamation.
Our consultation in the autumn would also seek views on other related recommendations on funding arrangements such as whether lawyers should be permitted to enter into damages-based agreements (DBAs) or “contingency fees” in litigation. DBAs are also a type of “no win no fee” agreements which allow a lawyer to take a percentage of the claimant’s damages for taking on the claim. DBAs are commonly used in employment tribunals but are not permitted in litigation before the courts. This consultation will take account of any relevant legal aid reform proposals on which we will also be seeking views in the autumn, as previously announced.
Work is also progressing on a number of other areas covered by Sir Rupert’s review, but will not form part of the Government’s consultation in the autumn. The Government are considering the recommendations on fixed recoverable costs in the fast track, and on referral fees. The Legal Services Board is looking at the issue of referral fees, and their conclusions will inform the Government’s position. We will also consider Lord Young of Graffham’s conclusions from his “Review of Health and Safety Law and the Compensation Culture”. Separately, the Civil Justice Council will consult over the summer on a voluntary code of conduct for third party funders, as recommended by Sir Rupert. Third party funding is an arrangement whereby a party not directly relevant to the proceedings agrees to fund the case in return for a share of the damages awarded.
A range of judiciary-led costs and case management work has been continuing since Sir Rupert’s report was published. For example:
more robust costs management is being piloted in defamation cases and in mercantile, technology and construction cases;
a streamlined process and scale costs in the Patents County Court will come into effect in October 2010;
there will be a pilot of assessing disputed costs under £25,000 on the papers rather than at a hearing, in Leeds, Scarborough and York county courts from October 2010; and
a pilot to speed up and reduce the costs of expert evidence (through “concurrent evidence”) started in June 2010 in mercantile, technology and construction cases at the Manchester Civil Justice Centre.
A judicial steering group is considering the priorities for further implementation of these recommendations.
Leader of the House
Senior Salaries Review Body Report
On 31 March 2009 my predecessor informed the House, (Official Report, column 58WS) that the then Prime Minister had written to the Senior Salaries Review Body (SSRB) on 13 February 2009, inviting it to undertake a fundamental review of parliamentary pension arrangements and to make recommendations. The review was commissioned in response to the Government Actuary’s advice that the cost to the Exchequer of accruing benefits was likely to rise above 20% of payroll, the trigger point recommended by the SSRB for such a review.
The SSRB delivered its report to the former Prime Minister earlier this year. Today, the Government are publishing it in full. The report recommends some significant changes to the parliamentary pension arrangements, including:
Changing the basis of pension accrual from final salary to career average;
Increasing the normal pension age from 65 to 68;
Restricting the rate of indexation to the lesser of RPI or 2.5%;
Standardising the accrual rate at 1/60th of salary per year of service and the member contribution rate at 5.5% of pay; and
Benefits already accrued on a final salary basis to be frozen and uprated in line with RPI.
Taken together, the SSRB estimates that this package would reduce the underlying rate of Exchequer contribution to 10.5% of payroll.
The SSRB’s report provides helpful and thoughtful advice and a timely input into the current debate on public service pension arrangements. We are grateful to the SSRB for its work and for its willingness to tackle this matter thoroughly and independently.
In taking matters forward, we need to be mindful of developments that have taken place since the SSRB carried out its work:
1. The House has legislated to make the determination of hon. Members’ allowances and, from 2012-13 their salary and pensions, independent of the House. The independent determination and administration of these matters through the establishment of the Independent Parliamentary Standard Authority (IPSA), is a crucial part of the process of restoring trust in Parliament.
2. As stated in the coalition agreement, the Government have committed to consulting IPSA on how to move away from the generous final salary pension scheme for Members of Parliament. IPSA is due to take over responsibility for Members’ pension arrangements in 2012-13, as originally recommended by the Committee on Standards in Public Life in November 2009 and provided for in the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010.
3. We have established, under the chairmanship of Lord Hutton, an Independent Public Service Pensions Commission and asked the Commission to make recommendations aimed at ensuring the ongoing affordability, sustainability and fairness of public service pension arrangements.
4. The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in his Budget statement that, from April 2011, the consumer prices index (CPI) will be used for the price indexation of all benefits, tax credits and public service pensions.
The parliamentary scheme is not included explicitly within the scope of the Hutton Commission’s review. However, the Government strongly believe decisions about the parliamentary scheme should be informed by the Commission’s recommendations in respect of public service pensions more broadly, and that the SSRB report should be available as evidence to the Commission.
We will therefore await Lord Hutton’s recommendations on public service pensions. However, in the specific case of MPs, there is broad party political acceptance that the current final-salary pension terms for Members of Parliament are not sustainable and that reform is needed. We anticipate that the current scheme for MPs will end. We propose to consult IPSA on these matters and to make a further statement after Lord Hutton has published his findings.
Billy Wright Inquiry
I am pleased to announce that the report of the Billy Wright Inquiry, chaired by Lord MacLean, will be published on 14 September.
In my written statement to this House on 6 July, Official Report, column 8WS, I set out the steps that would need to be taken before publication of the Billy Wright Inquiry report. These included a checking process which would enable me to meet the obligations on me in relation to article 2 of the European convention on human rights and national security. I can confirm that this checking process has now been completed and I have received advice from the checking team which confirms that there is nothing in the report which, if published, could breach article 2 of the European convention on human rights by putting the lives or safety of individuals at risk, or put national security at risk. I am therefore satisfied that the report can be published in full and I have advised Lord MacLean of this.
However, given the time needed for the panel to finalise the text and to print the report, it will not be feasible to publish the report to Parliament before summer recess. I have therefore written to Lord MacLean asking him to retain custody of the report over the recess.
The report has not been shown to me or to any other member of the Government, or to any officials except the five members of the team who carried out the checking process. I have not been briefed on the contents of the report; nor have any officials other than those in the checking team.
As with the publication of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry report, I intend to consider giving advance sight to those who were designated as Represented Parties by the Inquiry, to their legal representatives, and to some Members of this House. I intend to discuss this with the Speaker of this House in due course.
Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Ireland (Report 2009-10)
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 2009-10 has been laid before Parliament today. Copies are available in the Library of the House.
Interim Report on Salt Supply and Use
For two winters in a row, severe weather has caused significant disruption for transport in this country. The cost to the economy and the disruption to the public has been significant, and there has been a level of dissatisfaction and confusion about the response by Government at both local and national level. This is unacceptable and must be resolved before the next winter season. An independent review of the transport sector’s response to last winter was commissioned by my predecessor as Secretary of State and I have asked David Quarmby CBE, who leads it, to continue that work.
The review panel’s interim report is being published today; and I am grateful to David Quarmby, Brian Smith, Chris Green, and those who have supported them, for their thoughtful and forthright analysis and recommendations. Copies of the interim report have been placed in the Library of the House.
The interim report concentrates on actions that can be taken by local and national highways authorities, salt suppliers, Government and others to improve resilience of the highways network for the coming winter as well as some longer-term actions. There is much in this report on which all of these groups will want to act urgently to ensure that disruptions to highway networks are minimised in the event of another severe winter.
For my part, I have tasked my officials to take forward, as a matter of priority, the recommendations relating to the Department for Transport and the Highways Agency.
I welcome the recommendation that the Highways Agency should build up a strategic salt supply of last resort for 2010-11, given the particular re-stocking challenges for local highway authorities for this coming winter. I have instructed the Highways Agency immediately to consider how arrangements could be implemented to source a volume of imported salt to establish and manage national strategic stockpiles of up to 250,000 tonnes.
In taking action to create strategic salt reserves for the 2010-11 winter season, the Highways Agency will clearly need to take account of the constraints imposed by the availability of salt from overseas and immediate storage facilities. It is important, as the review makes clear, that local highway authorities do not treat the possibility of such a supply as absolving them from the need to make appropriate provision for their highway networks. I urge local highway authorities to take forward the recommendations that relate to them.
The experience of last winter has shown that adopting standards and methods which reduce the utilisation of salt without compromising effectiveness will both reduce vulnerability to salt supply problems and reduce the cost to the local highway authority. It is therefore vital that authorities share best practice across the sector and my Department will discuss with the UK Roads Liaison Group how best we can support this aim for this winter and in the longer term.
Although highway authorities have a duty, as far as practicable, to keep their highways clear of snow and ice, it was clear from last winter that many members of the public were keen to show community spirit in clearing the footways outside their property. It was equally clear, however, that many were uncertain of their rights and liabilities if they were to act in this way. The interim report recommends (as does a recent report by the Local Government Association) that the Department for Transport should produce a brief guide to help the public understand this area of the law. I have tasked my officials to produce this by the end of October, not in the spirit of laying down what people should or should not do, but in the spirit of empowering those who wish to act in a neighbourly way.
The review panel’s work is not at an end. As well as undertaking further analysis to support longer-term actions to improve resilience in salt supply, they are also turning their attention to other transport modes. I look forward to receiving their final report, which they intend to publish in the autumn, in due course.
High Speed 2 (Exceptional Hardship Scheme)
The Government are committed to the establishment of a high-speed rail network as part of their programme of measures to create a low carbon economy. However, in developing plans for a new high-speed line, both I and my predecessor as Secretary of State for Transport have been mindful of their potential impact on those who live on or close to the proposed line of route.
It was for this reason that the previous Government launched a consultation on a potential exceptional hardship scheme to provide assistance for those who have been most severely and immediately affected by the preferred route option for a new line between London and the west midlands set out in the recent report by HS2 Ltd. This consultation closed on 17 June. Around 4,500 responses were received. This statement sets out my response.
It is clear from the responses to the consultation that there is overwhelming support for a scheme to be introduced to provide assistance for those most severely affected by HS2 Ltd’s proposed line. I can therefore confirm that an exceptional hardship scheme will be introduced, and that it will be open to applications from Friday 20 August.
The introduction of the scheme recognises the unique nature of the proposed line, which is only the second high-speed rail project to be considered in the UK and which differs significantly from its predecessor in terms of its design, operation and potential market. It should therefore not be taken as setting any precedent for future infrastructure schemes.
Respondents to the consultation also made many suggestions as to how the terms of the scheme might be altered. I have considered these and have made the following changes from the scheme put forward for consultation. First, the scheme will be widened to include owner-occupiers of agricultural units and commercial properties with an annual rateable value not exceeding £34,800; this brings it in line with the blight provisions under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. Secondly, the scheme will also be able to cover properties recently inherited following a bereavement and repossessed properties that the original owner urgently requires the bank or other lender to sell to realise some value.
A number of respondents asked for the scheme to be extended to properties over tunnelled sections of the proposed line of route. It is my view, however, that any blighting effects over tunnels are likely to be limited, and this is reinforced by the additional information note on the effects of tunnelling which HS2 Ltd has published on its website today. However, I accept that there is a need to make special provision in relation to properties close to the proposed entrances and exits of tunnels. I have therefore decided to extend the scheme to cover these properties.
Finally, I have decided that the panel which makes recommendations to me on applications to the scheme should have a majority of independent members, although this will not be the case for the shadow panel announced in my written ministerial statement of 27 May 2010, Official Report, column 15WS.
In other respects, the scheme will operate as set out in the consultation document. In particular, the scheme will apply only to properties on or in the vicinity of HS2 Ltd’s route option 3. HS2 Ltd’s report makes a clear recommendation and it is therefore my view that assistance of this kind should be focused on this route, where the blight impacts will be most severe. It is also my conclusion that, to minimise the risk of blight spreading as a result of a scheme of this kind, it should be limited to those who have a pressing need to sell and who would otherwise experience exceptional hardship.
A large proportion of consultation responses also raised issues in relation to longer-term provision to address blight. If a decision is taken following public consultation to proceed with a new high-speed line and to safeguard the route that it would follow, statutory blight arrangements would come into force covering those properties which would have to be acquired in order to build or operate the new line. However, many respondents suggested that additional provision would be needed to cover those properties which would not have to be acquired but which might still be seriously affected by the construction or operation of the line. Respondents also made a number of proposals for how such provision might be structured. I am aware that provision of this kind has been made in respect of a number of previous schemes in both the public and private sectors.
I am mindful of the importance of appropriate longer-term arrangements to assist those who would be most seriously affected by a new line. I agree that some additional provision over and above the statutory blight regime will be needed to achieve this, and it is therefore my intention that this should be put in place, if and when a decision is taken to safeguard a route.
The specific issues raised in response to the consultation, particularly in respect of the different models for operating such arrangements, are complex and require detailed consideration. I have therefore asked my officials to provide me with further advice on options for the terms and conditions of such additional provision and how it should operate. I will report to Parliament on my proposed way forward in the light of the spending review outcome and before public consultation on the Government’s strategy for high-speed rail and the route of any new high speed line.
I have placed copies of the analysis of responses to the consultation and a list of frequently asked questions about the scheme in the Libraries of both Houses.
Marine Aids to Navigation
Following my request for comments on the report by Atkins consultants entitled “Assessment of the provision of marine aids to navigation around the United Kingdom and Ireland” in June 2010 (10 June 2010, Official Report, column 35WS), I have received replies from 18 organisations and individuals. I wish now to inform the House of the steps the Government intend to take to ensure the continuing delivery of a high-quality aids to navigation service to ensure the safety of all of those using our seas, which also minimises the burdens on those paying light dues.
The Atkins report makes some 52 recommendations covering technical matters, corporate governance, efficiencies and synergies, light dues charges, the general lighthouse fund and Anglo-Irish issues. Key recommendations include:
creating a general lighthouse authority joint strategic board to drive efficiencies;
using an annual target reduction calculator (RPI - x%) for GLA running costs;
developing a timetable with the Irish Government on the financing of the Commissioners of Irish Lights, setting out an incentivised financial model which retains the all-Ireland body while allowing its costs within the Republic of Ireland to be covered wholly from Irish sources; and
changing the structure and scope of light dues.
In the light of the responses received, the Government have decided to endorse the formation of the joint strategic board with the clear objective of co-ordinating and directing work between the three general lighthouse authorities to achieve maximum efficiencies and improvements in the delivery of aids to navigation. To take the work of the joint strategic board forward as quickly as possible I have asked Chris Bourne, a non-executive director of Trinity House, to act as chair of the board. In his role as chair of the joint strategic board Mr Bourne will take an independent and impartial view of the issues, and will report to me on the board’s achievements. His extensive shipping background and knowledge of the work of the general lighthouse authorities make him an excellent choice for this role. In the longer term, the Government will look at the appointment of a chair for the joint strategic board from outside the three general lighthouse authorities.
The Government have also decided that it is right, particularly in current economic circumstances, to ask the general lighthouse authorities to deliver reductions in their running costs below the level of inflation and welcome the commitment by the general lighthouse authorities to delivering this challenge. The precise target will be agreed with the general lighthouse authorities alongside the development of their corporate plans and budgets for 2011 to 2014 that are submitted to me for consideration in the autumn.
In this difficult economic period the Government also wish to provide long term stability and reassurance, both for light dues payers in the level of charges they face and for the general lighthouse authorities so they can plan effectively with budgetary stability. The responses received to my request for comments on the Atkins recommendations suggest that there is little appetite to make major changes to the structure and scope of light dues payable by ships visiting our shores. I do not therefore intend to change the basis on which light dues are currently charged, although I will continue to work with all interested parties to seek an equitable means of ensuing that all those who benefit from the provision and supervision of marine aids to navigation by the general lighthouse authorities pay towards their provision where it is viable, practicable and economic to do so.
The Government also believe a solution needs to be found as soon as possible to the imbalance of funding for aids to navigation in the Republic of Ireland. I have written to the Irish Minister of Transport; it is my intention to conclude a negotiated agreement with the Irish Government and to implement that agreement as quickly as is reasonably possible thereafter.
Renewable Fuels Agency (Annual Report and Accounts 2009-10)
In accordance with paragraph 14 of the schedule to the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligations Order 2007, the accounts of the Renewable Fuels Agency for 2009-10 and the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General have been laid before Parliament today.
Work and Pensions
Accounting for the Delivery of Welfare
The Jobcentre Plus annual report and accounts 2009-10 will be laid before Parliament today. They will be published electronically on the Department’s website later today.
The annual report section provides a summary of Jobcentre Plus’s performance against the business priorities and targets stated in the 2009-10 published business plan. The accounts provide a summary of Jobcentre Plus’s administrative and employment programme expenditure for 2009-10.
Copies will be available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office shortly.
Independent Living Fund
The trustees of the Independent Living Fund took the decision to close the fund to all new applicants as of June 2010. This decision was taken to ensure the fund remained within its £348 million budget. This followed the decision in March to write to local authorities announcing that from 1 May the fund would only be able to accept new applications from disabled people in paid work of 16 hours or more, in line with the existing priorities set out in its governing trust deed.
We have considered the circumstances that led to the decision to restrict eligibility and then to close the fund to new applicants. A combination of factors contributed to this situation. The uncertainty and sensitivity of financial forecasting assumptions and a short-notice film reduction in the fund’s 2010-11 budget implemented by the previous Administration led to the trustees’ decision to restrict eligibility for the fund. The previous Administration failed to approve this decision—which enabled the ILF to live within their 2010-11 budget—until March 2010. The confusion and uncertainty caused by this chain of events is unacceptable.
The ILF has now put in place a more robust methodology for forecasting future expenditure and has safeguarded the support allocated to the 21,000 existing recipients of the fund. I have asked the Department and the ILF to ensure that all the lessons are learned from this situation and that appropriate procedures are put in place to ensure that the fund’s budget remains on track.
Further compounding the situation was the failure of the previous Administration to take a principled and strategic decision about the future role of the fund. This was despite a comprehensive and independent review of the fund published in 2007 which recommended that the ILF should retain NDPB status until 2009-10 at which point a decision should be made, based on the presumption of the full integration of the funding stream into personalised budgets.
The coalition Government are committed to ensuring severely disabled people receive the support they need and, working closely with the trustees, we will consider and settle the long-term future of the ILF as part of the forthcoming spending review.