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Written Statements

Volume 518: debated on Friday 19 November 2010

Written Ministerial Statements

Friday 19 November 2010


Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (Regulated Activities)

It has been brought to the Government’s attention that the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (Regulated Activities) (Amendment) Order 2010 (“the 2010 Order”), which came into force on 24 February 2010 has unintentionally had a number of potential adverse consequences for the tax and regulatory treatment of some types of debt securities.

The Government intend at the earliest practicable opportunity to make the necessary amendments in secondary legislation to restore the legal position in respect of the potentially affected debt securities. This will rectify the potential problem going forward.

Action will also be taken to ensure that no unintended consequences arise for the potentially affected debt securities regarding regulatory or tax treatment between the coming into force of the 2010 Order on 24 February 2010, and the date on which the remedying amendments come into force.

HMRC has confirmed that it will take no action to establish or collect any tax liabilities that may arise from these unintended consequences. The Government will introduce, as necessary, legislation in the next Finance Bill to restore previous expectations about the way that potentially affected debt securities are taxed, subject to an opt-out to ensure the retrospective application of new legislation does not increase tax liabilities.

Cabinet Office

Government Spending Data (Publication)

Today we have released all Government spend processed since the Government took office. This set of data is the key to so much that this Government wants to achieve—driving value for money by forcing accountability for every penny spent, encouraging competition and innovation in providing services and driving economic growth.

Starting from now, and updated every month, each Government Department will publish on every item of spending over £25,000. Some Departments are going even further by publishing everything over £500. Each item will be listed in detail, with the date of transaction, the value, the name of the contractor and the description of the good or service purchased.

It is our defining purpose to bring about a power shift in this country—to transfer control to individuals and neighbourhoods. Control over public services so people decide the things that really matter to them—the school they send their child to or the hospital they get treated in. And because information is power, transparency is a crucial part of this power shift. After all, it is information that lets people take on the political class, question them, demand answers and get those answers. It is information that lets people choose between different public services, increasing competition and raising standards.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Flooding (Cornwall)

Members will be aware of the serious flooding that affected parts of Cornwall in particular on Wednesday 17 November, causing disruption and distress to many people. At its height, 10 flood warnings were in place though these have now been removed.

The flooding was caused by very heavy rainfall from Tuesday evening onwards: 38.8 mm fell in one hour at Mevagissey. This resulted in significant surface water and river flooding, causing widespread travel difficulties and damage to more than 250 properties. Affected areas include St Austell, Par, Pentewan, Bodmin, Luxulyan, Lostwithiel, St Blazey, St Blazey Gate, Polgooth, Launceston, and Mevagissey. The issues faced varied from place to place, requiring different local responses. The Environment Agency intends to hold clinics in each community to address the issues and build resilience.

Across Cornwall, around 3,000 properties in vulnerable areas were protected as a result of flood defence schemes. These included up to 100 on the river Fowey at Lostwithiel.

An extreme rainfall alert was issued by the Flood Forecasting Centre on Tuesday afternoon, highlighting the risk of very heavy rainfall overnight. This alert allowed local authorities to prepare to respond. The emergency has rightly been dealt with by responders at the local level who are best placed to make decisions and take action according to local needs.

Helicopters were on stand-by but not needed for flood rescue, though one medical evacuation was carried out. There was some fast-moving water, but no major injuries or missing persons have been reported. Many residents were, however, evacuated and spent the night away from home.

The Prime Minister has spoken to the leader of the Cornwall county council and heard first hand how local authorities are dealing with the situation. I visited the areas affected on Thursday to meet some of the people affected and see how agencies responded. The council held a series of public meetings on Wednesday evening in Lostwithiel, St Blazey and Mevagissey to provide residents and councillors with the latest information and to offer support and advice.

We have all seen on television just what an effect the flooding has had on homes, businesses and communities. It causes significant disruption and we express our sympathy to all those affected and also wish to pay tribute to all who have been involved in responding to this emergency, in particular those who worked so hard throughout Wednesday. This shows what can be done by communities working together.

The Government will continue to work with local authorities to help people rebuild their lives, although we know sadly that it takes time for homes and buildings to dry out. The Department for Communities and Local Government is ready to consider any application for Bellwin assistance from the local authorities affected. Once the damage has been assessed, CLG will be happy to discuss the best way forward with local councils.

The insurance industry has a key role to play in assisting the recovery process. The Association of British Insurers has said that insurers’ first priority will be to ensure that every claim is dealt with as quickly as possible and has put advice on its website for people who have been flooded by the heavy rain in Cornwall. At a recent flood summit on 16 September, Government, insurers and other stakeholders agreed to continue to work in partnership towards 2013 when the current agreement between insurers and Government expires.

As a Government we are committed to ensure that flood and coastal erosion risk is managed effectively. We have started the implementation of the Flood and Water Management Act, providing for greater local leadership and partnership to address local flood risks. We are also protecting forecasting and warning services, and incident response, and prioritising the risk-based maintenance of existing defences. It is clear from the response the lessons of Sir Michael Pitt’s report on the summer 2007 floods are being learnt.

DEFRA will be spending at least £2.1 billion on flood and coastal erosion risk management over the next four years. We intend that, by March 2015, 145,000 households will be better protected.

I want to assure Members that the Environment Agency, and their local emergency partners including the local authorities, are being extremely active and doing all they can to prevent flooding in areas currently at risk.

If people remain concerned about flooding they should visit the Environment Agency’s website or telephone their Floodline on 0845 988 1188.

Work and Pensions

Jobseeker's Allowance (Work for your Benefit Pilot Scheme) Regulations

On 21 June 2010 we notified bidders that we would not be proceeding with the Work for Your Benefit pilot scheme.

The Jobseeker’s Allowance (Work for your Benefit Pilot Scheme) Regulations 2010 (S.I. 2010/1222) were approved in draft by each House of Parliament in March 2010 and were made on 7 April 2010. They are due to come into force on 22 November 2010, and then to lapse on 21 November 2013. These regulations allow the Secretary of State to select claimants in pilot areas for participation in the scheme if they meet specified conditions. They also provide for the loss or reduction of benefit if persons selected fail to participate without good cause.

As a result of this decision, no jobseeker’s allowance claimants will be selected for participation in the scheme.

As part of the wider reforms to welfare that this Government are undertaking, I will in due course be announcing further details of the support we will be offering to improve the job chances of long-term unemployed people.