Written Ministerial Statements
Wednesday 16 February 2011
Culture, Media and Sport
50th Horserace Betting Levy
On 1 November 2010 the Chairman of the Horserace Betting Levy Board (“the HBLB”) informed me that the HBLB had been unable to approve a recommendation from the Bookmakers’ Committee as to the terms of the 50th levy scheme. Under section 1(2) of the Horserace Betting Levy Act 1969, therefore, it falls to me to determine those terms.
I have considered the parties’ submissions, taking into account their representations on what target amount would reflect the capacity of bookmakers to pay, what it is reasonable to expect bookmakers to pay and what the reasonable needs of horseracing are in all the circumstances.
Under section l(3)(a) of the Act, I have decided to determine a new levy scheme for the 50th levy period (running from April 2011 to March 2012), under which the following terms will apply:
The headline rate of levy will increase by 7.5% from 10% to 10.75% for licensed betting offices (“LBOs”) as well as for telephone and internet betting operators (including betting exchanges).
The “threshold” level beneath which LBOs pay an abated rate of levy will be reduced to £50,000.
The levy will continue to be payable only in respect of profits arising on bets placed in relation to British horseracing.
The rate of levy for bookmakers who derive their gross profit from spread betting businesses will increase by 7.5% from 2% to 2.15%
The flat fee for on-course bookmakers will increase (in line with RPI) to £210, whereas those bookmakers standing solely at point-to-point events, harness racing and/or trotting the flat fee will increase (in line with RPI) to £166.
The amount payable in advance by LBOs, telephone and internet betting operators will continue to be calculated on the basis of their liability under previous schemes—subject to an uplift of 7.5%.
I estimate that this will produce levy proceeds of between £73.7 million—£80.8 million (with a mid-range figure of £77.25 million), and believe that terms outlined above represent a fair deal for bookmakers and horseracing.
I am today writing to the Bookmakers’ Committee, British horseracing and the Government-appointed Members of the HBLB to thank them for their submissions and explain my decision in more detail. I will also ask that the HBLB finalise the operational details of the scheme as a matter of urgency.
With the determination concluded, I would like to re-state my disappointment that the relevant parties were not themselves able to come to terms and I would strongly encourage them to develop a less adversarial relationship going forward. I have tried to be fair by listening to the advice of the independent members of the levy board and I will continue to be guided by their advice in future years until what should be a straightforward commercial negotiation can be taken permanently out of the hands of Ministers.
Chemical Weapons Convention (Protective Programmes)
The UK’s chemical protection programme is designed to protect against the use of chemical weapons. Such a programme is permitted by the chemical weapons convention, with which the United Kingdom is fully compliant. Under the terms of the convention, we are required to provide information annually to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). In accordance with the Government’s commitment to openness, I am placing in the Library of the House, a copy of the summary that has been provided to the organisation outlining the UK’s chemical protection programme in 2010.
Defence Infrastructure Organisation
I am announcing today that I intend to set up a new defence infrastructure organisation (DIO) on 1 April this year. We will now launch a consultation process with the MOD trade unions.
The new organisation will bring together some 7,000 staff currently working on construction, maintenance and utilities management and the disposal of land and buildings across the Department.
By making these changes we expect to save about 2,500 posts by 2014 and some £1.2 billion over the first four years alone, without reducing the effectiveness or reliability of the service we deliver. This measure will make a significant contribution to the civilian staff reductions and efficiency measures set out last October in the strategic defence and security review.
This is the first such change emerging from the work of the defence reform unit under Lord Levene designed to overhaul the structure of the Department. It is a significant change, and demonstrates the radical approach to reorganisation and resourcing which we are taking to ensure that we maximise the amount of the defence budget made available for the front line. I hope to announce further such changes in the near future.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
General Affairs Council/Foreign Affairs Council
The Foreign Affairs Council and General Affairs Council will meet in Brussels on 21 February. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will attend the Foreign Affairs Council. I will attend the General Affairs Council.
General Affairs Council (gac)
February and March European Councils
Ministers will discuss follow-up to the February European Council, which covered energy, innovation and Egypt. Following the Council, the Prime Minister reported the outcomes to the House in his statement on the “EU Council and North Africa”. The statement can be found at the following link:
The conclusions of the February European Council meeting can be found at:
They will also discuss preparation for the March European Council. The formal agenda has not yet been published. However, we expect discussions at the Council to focus on:
legislative proposals for economic governance in the eurozone;
European Council decision amending article 136 of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union and intergovernmental arrangements setting up the European stability mechanism.
These were agreed at the December European Council, see link:
Ministers will review the fifth cohesion report and the ongoing public consultation. The report and details of the public consultation can be found at:
The Government are in the process of forming a response, which will be presented to Parliament in due course.
Foreign Affairs Council (fac)
Ministers will be briefed on informal consultations held in New York on 14 February between EU member states and the wider UN membership on the draft EU resolution on the “participation of the EU in the work of the UN”.
EU human rights
Baroness Ashton will brief Ministers on the EU’s priorities for the forthcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council. These are likely to include securing Council adoption of strong resolutions expressing concern at the human rights situation in Burma and the DPRK, and resolutions promoting children’s rights and freedom of religion.
EU Southern Neighbourhood (Egypt/Tunisia)
This is an opportunity for Ministers to follow-up the February European Council debate on Egypt and Tunisia and take stock of the recent momentous events. Baroness Ashton is visiting the region this week and will set out her thoughts on the way ahead for the EU. A number of options for EU support to the region are being considered, including election monitoring and a re-evaluation of the European neighbourhood partnership (the EU’s main vehicle for promoting reform in the region). We want to see an ambitious package of support to the region, but would also like to see more conditionality attached to this assistance; as the Prime Minister emphasised to Parliament on 8 February when he reported back on the February European Council.
Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH)
We expect Baroness Ashton and Commissioner Fule to follow-up the discussion in last July’s FAC (which I reported in my written ministerial statement) of a reinforced EU presence in BiH, by providing more information about EU planning in this regard. The Government agree that there should be a reinforced EU presence in BiH, able to deploy deterrents as well as the incentives inherent in the EU accession process. We will therefore support proposals for the development of an “EU toolbox” of positive and negative measures. We believe that in parallel, the civilian executive (“Bonn”) powers need to be retained, that the conditionality for eventual closure of the Office of the High Representative continue to apply, and that the executive mandate of the EU military force, EUFOR Operation Althea, should be upheld. We will continue to insist on these points in EU and wider international negotiation.
We expect Ministers to be presented with a draft security and development strategy for the Sahel region, which they requested at the last October’s FAC. The murder of two French nationals in Niger in January and the kidnap of an Italian in Algeria this month underscore the severity of the terrorist threat in the region. Baroness Ashton reacted to the first event in the following statement on 19 January:
Baroness Ashton is expected to give an oral presentation of the outline of the EEAS’s Horn of Africa strategy. The strategy is expected to focus on regional and cross-cutting issues, looking in particular at the main causes of conflict and poverty. There will be a more substantive discussion at the March FAC, where we expect the adoption of formal conclusions.
Freedom of Religion
Following discussion at the 31 January FAC, we expect conclusions to be adopted on the issue of “Intolerance, discrimination and violence on the basis of religion or belief”. We believe these conclusions should send a strong statement of the Council’s concern at instances of persecution or discrimination based on religion and its commitment to upholding the right to freedom of religion or belief.
Iran: human rights
EU member states will discuss the deteriorating human rights situation in Iran, particularly following the unacceptable execution of dual Dutch/Iranian national Baahrami. Baroness Ashton released a statement on behalf of the EU on 27 January:
Middle East Peace Process
Baroness Ashton is likely to provide an update on preparations for the March Quartet meeting and report on her recent visit to the middle east. There is also likely to be a discussion of the implications of wider developments in the region for the MEPP.
The Foreign Secretary will also brief his counterparts on his visit to Tunisia, Jordan, Yemen, UAE and Bahrain. Related press releases can be found on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s website: www.fco.gov.uk.
There is a possibility of a short discussion of Zimbabwe, following the adoption of renewed EU targeted measures. A full written ministerial statement on this will be laid before the House shortly.
Hungarian Presidency (Priorities)
I am keen to keep hon. Members fully informed on the European Union. I would therefore like to draw hon. Members’ attention to a letter to the Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee and note on the priorities of the Hungarian presidency of the European Union, which have been placed in the Library of the House.
I have deposited a copy of the Hungarian presidency strategic framework, and a calendar of forthcoming events from the presidency.
From 1 April 2011 the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) legalisation office in Milton Keynes will only accept applications received by post and will process all straightforward applications within 24 hours (excluding postal times). Updated guidance on how to submit applications will be on the legalisation office website from 1 March.
A majority of customers already send their applications by post—they will see the turnaround time halved from 48 to 24 hours. A third of customers come to the office in person—they will now need to submit their applications by post.
Ten per cent. of customers are businesses who currently have their applications processed within 24 hours. Business customers who submit large volumes of documents on a daily basis can pre-register to have access to a drop-off and pick-up facility at Milton Keynes with the same 24 hours turnaround. There will be no charge to customers for this service. There will be no change to the service offered at the legalisation office at Centre Point in central London which serves business customers only.
This change is driven by a desire to ensure that we can provide the most efficient service possible. At present these three different service levels are offered all for the same price. This change moves to a single service level for a single price. Over time the changes may also deliver efficiency savings by removing the costs associated with maintaining a public area.
Legalisation is the official confirmation that the signature, stamp or seal on a UK document is genuine. The legalisation does not certify the authenticity of a document or give Foreign and Commonwealth Office approval of its content. Legalisation is usually required by foreign authorities before they will allow a UK document to be used for official purposes in their country. The legalisation office is the only competent authority in the UK to issue legalisation or apostille certificates in the UK.
Pope's Visit (Costs)
I wish to inform the House that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is today publishing a report of the non-policing costs handled by the FCO on behalf of Her Majesty’s Government and the Catholic Church during the Visit of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to the United Kingdom which took place from 16 to 19 September 2010.
This was an historic visit, as the first ever official visit by a Pope to the UK, and an important milestone in the relationship between the UK and the Holy See. It was on a far bigger scale than a normal state visit: police estimates suggest that 500,000 people saw the Pope either during events or along the Pope mobile routes. Approximately 3,000 media representatives were accredited to cover the visit. The combination of official events, pastoral events, through which the Pope engaged with Britain’s Roman Catholics, and meetings with the Church of England and with people of other faiths, made this a visit that was out of the ordinary in every way.
The visit programme included both state and pastoral elements. HM Government agreed with the Catholic Church that costs would be shared accordingly, with all the costs of the pastoral elements of the programme met by the church. HM Government met the costs of events which were entirely part of the state visit programme and contributed to the costs of other events in relation to measures necessary to meet HM Government’s responsibility for the safety and security of the public and of the Pope. The Scottish Government also contributed in relation to these measures for the Scottish part of the programme.
The report consists of:
An exchange of letters and an agreement on division of costs for public events signed by Lord Patten of Barnes and Archbishop Nichols prior to the visit. The second appendix is not attached as it is a draft budget which is superseded by the summary of expenditure attached to this statement (referenced below)
A summary of expenditure made by the FCO on behalf of HM Government and the Catholic Church. To date, all these costs have been met by the FCO. The bishops’ conferences of England and Wales and Scotland on behalf of the Catholic Church have undertaken to refund its share of these costs by the end of February.
This report does not include the estimated £3,800,000 for costs paid direct by the Catholic Church. Neither does it cover any expenditure met by local authorities nor staffing costs incurred by other Government Departments.
In addition to the costs outlined in the report the Scottish Government also contributed towards the cost of the Scottish part of the programme.
I am placing the report in the Library of the House. It will also be published on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website (www.fco.gov.uk).
The visit paved the way for further co-operation between the UK and the Holy See on a number of international issues where we share a common goal, including addressing the challenge of climate change, promoting multi-faith dialogue, as a means of working for peace in the world, and fighting poverty and disease. These were among the issues discussed both in bilateral meetings during the visit and at the working dinner with the papal delegation hosted by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary.
The success of the visit was a testament to the close co-operation and effective joint working by the Catholic Church, HM Government and many other organisations and individuals throughout the UK. I wish to place on record HM Government’s gratitude to all those who worked together to achieve that success.
The EU has announced today its decision to roll over the Zimbabwe restrictive and appropriate measures. Following an in-depth assessment the UK and its EU partners have unanimously agreed to the renewal of the measures for a further 12 months, while removing 35 people from the list of those subject to an EU visa ban and asset freeze on the grounds that they are no longer involved in human rights abuses or undermining democracy or the rule of law.
Although this amendment reflects the progress made by the Government of Zimbabwe on economic issues and in delivering public services it also reflects our strong concern that this has not been matched by equivalent political and democratic reform. Essential reforms to promote the rule of law, human rights and democracy, as agreed under the global political agreement, have not yet been implemented. We are particularly concerned at the upsurge in political violence and intimidation in recent weeks. We have, therefore, extended the travel restrictions and asset freeze applicable to the remaining 163 people and 31 economic entities for a further 12 months. The arms’ embargo remains in place and EU and UK bilateral development aid will continue to be channelled directly to the people of Zimbabwe through the UN and non-state actors, rather than through the Government of Zimbabwe.
The UK and our EU partners emphasise our willingness to revisit the measures at any time should there be further concrete developments on the ground in Zimbabwe. In this context, we fully support the Southern African Development Community and its member states in their effort to facilitate agreement amongst the parties in Zimbabwe on creating an environment conducive to the holding of free and fair elections.
Britain remains a committed friend to the people of Zimbabwe. We gave our largest ever aid package to Zimbabwe last year and the DFID Secretary of State recently signalled that the UK would significantly increase its development effort in Zimbabwe over the next four years if there are free and fair elections and a reforming Government in place.
Acupuncture, Herbal Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine
The issue of whether or not practitioners of acupuncture, herbal medicine and traditional Chinese medicine should be statutorily regulated has been debated since the House of Lords’ Select Committee on Science and Technology’s report in 2000 recommended statutory regulation for the first two of these groups.
We have today published an analysis of the 2009 consultation by the four United Kingdom Health Departments which sought views on the possible regulation of practitioners of acupuncture, herbal medicine and traditional Chinese medicine. This factual report has been placed in the Library and can be found on the Department of Health’s website at:
Copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office and to noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office.
I can now set out how we intend to take forward the regulation of herbal medicine practitioners and traditional Chinese medicines practitioners, specifically with regard to the use of unlicensed herbal medicines within their practice. As this matter is a devolved matter in Scotland and Northern Ireland we have had discussions with Health Departments in the three devolved Administrations which have been constructive and we are committed to a unified UK-wide approach to the regulation of these practitioners.
When the European Directive 2004/24/EC takes full effect in April 2011 it will no longer be legal for herbal practitioners in the UK to source unlicensed manufactured herbal medicines for their patients. This Government wish to ensure that the public can continue to have access to these products.
In order to achieve this, while at the same time complying with EU law, some form of statutory regulation will be necessary and I have therefore decided to ask the Health Professions Council to establish a statutory register for practitioners supplying unlicensed herbal medicines. This will ensure that practitioners meet specified registration standards. Practitioner regulation will be underpinned by a strengthened system for regulating medicinal products. This approach will give practitioners and consumers continuing access to herbal medicines. It will do this by allowing us to use a derogation in the European legislation to set up a UK scheme to permit and regulate the supply, via practitioners, of unlicensed manufactured herbal medicines to meet individual patient needs.
The Health Professions Council is an established and experienced statutory regulatory body which has the necessary experience to be able to successfully establish and maintain a statutory register for practitioners wishing to supply unlicensed herbal medicines. Subject to parliamentary approval, such practitioners who wish to supply unlicensed herbal products will be required by law to register with the HPC.
The four UK Health Departments will consult jointly on the draft legislation once it is prepared. This will give practitioners and the public the opportunity to comment. Subject to parliamentary procedures we will aim to have the legislation in place in 2012.
Until the new arrangements are in place the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) will continue to take appropriate compliance and enforcement action where products are in breach of the regulatory requirements. In line with the MHRA’s normal approach, the action taken will be proportionate and will target products which pose a public health risk. Guidance issued by the MHRA makes clear their view that, where practitioners hold stocks of unlicensed products on 30 April 2011 that legally benefited from transitional arrangements under the European directive, the practitioner can continue to sell those existing supplies to their patients.
The 2009 consultation also looked at practitioners of acupuncture. The practice of acupuncture is not affected by the EU directive and, therefore, compliance is not required. I am confident that acupuncturists have their own voluntary regulatory measures in place which are sufficiently robust. Additionally, local authorities in England have powers to regulate the hygiene of the practice of acupuncture to protect against the risk of transmission of certain infectious diseases. Similar measures are also in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
I am pleased to say that this decision resolves a long-standing issue, to the benefit of both practitioners and the public who use herbal medicines.
Health Care Workers, Social Workers and Social Care Workers
Safe, respectful and effective care is essential and should be what all users of health and social care services experience.
The vast majority of those who work in health and social care are committed individuals with a strong sense of professionalism who aspire to deliver the highest standards. However, where there is poor practice or behaviour that presents a risk to the public, it is vital that swift action is taken, whether by employers, or by national regulatory bodies.
Ensuring a strong and effective system for regulating health and social care professionals is one of the cornerstones of our strategy for delivering improved outcomes for people who use health and social care services. The current system of professional regulation helps to ensure this by setting high standards of education, training, conduct and ethics and by taking action to remove unsuitable workers in the rare cases when things go wrong. Regulation of health care workers and social workers therefore makes an important contribution to safeguarding the public, including vulnerable children and adults.
However, the regulatory framework is also complex, expensive and requires continuous Government intervention to keep it up to date. More generally, reducing regulation is a key priority for the coalition Government. By freeing society from unnecessary laws, the Government aim to create a better balance of responsibilities between the state, business, civil society and individuals, and to encourage people to take greater personal responsibility for their actions.
While regulation of some professionals is vital to ensure high standards of care, it is only one component of a wider system of safeguards, controls and clinical governance and ultimate responsibility for the provision of high quality services must rest with employers and those contracting with health and social care workers. We believe that the approach to professional regulation must be proportionate and effective, imposing the least cost and complexity consistent with securing safety and confidence for patients, service users, carers and the wider public.
I have today laid before Parliament a Command Paper, “Enabling Excellence—Autonomy and Accountability for Healthcare Workers, Social Workers and Social Care Workers” (Cm 8008) setting out the Government’s proposals for how the system for regulating health care workers across the United Kingdom and social workers in England should be reformed, to sustain and develop the high professional standards of those practitioners and to continue to assure the safety of those using services and the rest of the public.
The reforms, many of which are being progressed through the Health and Social Care Bill, will give greater independence to those who work in health care across the UK and social care in England, to their employers, and to the professional regulatory bodies; balanced by more effective accountability in how they exercise that freedom.
We will seek to drive up standards for some groups of unregulated health and social care workers to improve service users’ experience through a system of assured voluntary registration. Employers and commissioners will be able to give preference to workers on voluntary registers to ensure that they contract with suitably skilled and qualified workers. In line with the Government’s overall social work reform programme, the proposals will also strengthen social work as a profession in England.
“Enabling Excellence—Autonomy and Accountability for Healthcare Workers, Social Workers and Social Care Workers” is available to hon. Members from the Vote Office and to noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office.
Access to Elected Office Consultation
Today the Government are publishing a consultation paper, co-produced with Equality 20251 and disability organisations, which seeks views on the additional support which can be offered to disabled people who wish to become elected representatives.
We want to ensure that our democracy is diverse and that we have a political system which better reflects the people it serves. To this end, the coalition programme contained an important commitment to introduce additional support for disabled people “who want to become MPs, councillors or other elected officials”. This commitment was borne from the recognition that the 10 million and more disabled people in the UK are under-represented in public life. It also follows the recommendations made by the cross-party Speaker’s conference in January 2010 on how to improve the representation of women, disabled people and minority ethnic people in the House of Commons.
In order to produce an effective strategy, we need to establish the practical support needed by disabled candidates to encourage greater participation in public and political life. This consultation is an opportunity for us to seek a diverse range of views, from disabled people themselves and others, on the measures which would make a real difference.
The consultation paper sets out a range of proposals including the establishment of a fund to support disability-related costs. This will not, however, replace existing obligations for parties under the Equality Act 2010/Disability Discrimination Act 1995. In addition to helping break down financial barriers, the proposals are intended to address some of the wider obstacles faced by disabled people who seek elected office, for example introducing measures to raise awareness and tackle attitudes which might discourage disabled people from putting themselves forward for election.
The proposals will apply to: English local elections, Greater London authority (GLA) elections, English mayoral elections, police and crime commissioners and all candidates from all parts of the UK who are seeking elected positions at UK Westminster elections. We would continue to work with colleagues in the devolved legislatures to help best practice from this strategy to be embedded in the electoral practices for their elections.
The consultation will run for a period of 12 weeks, until 11 May. A consultation document and instructions for responding can be found on the Government Equalities Office website at www.equalities.gov.uk and a copy has been placed in the Library of the House.
A summary of the results of this consultation will be published on the Government Equalities Office website within three months of the end of the consultation period.
1Government’s advisory body on disability issues
My right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Lord McNally, has made the following written ministerial statement:
“On 7 January 2011, the Government announced their intention to enhance the independence of the Information Commissioner as part of a wider package of measures to extend the Freedom of Information Act. Additionally, I wish to announce to the House today that the Government will strengthen the role of Parliament in the appointment of the next Commissioner in 2014. For this appointment, the Government will offer the Justice Select Committee a pre-appointment hearing with the preferred candidate and will accept the Committee’s conclusion on whether or not the candidate should be appointed. This will make the appointment process more open and transparent and enhance the independence of the office.
The Information Commissioner plays a vital role in promoting transparency and protecting the rights of individuals in relation to their personal data. The Government are fully committed to an independent Commissioner and the critical role he plays as a champion and protector of information rights.
The Commissioner is already entirely independent in the decisions he takes to enforce the legislation he regulates. However, the provisions to be included in the (Protection of Freedoms) Bill will further enhance his day-to-day corporate and administrative independence. The Commissioner will no longer need to seek the consent of the Justice Secretary on issues relating to staff appointments, charging for certain services, or before issuing certain statutory codes of practice under the Data Protection Act. Changes will also be made to the terms of the Commissioner’s appointment and tenure to increase transparency and protect against any potential undue influence.
Taken together, these steps—to be underpinned by a revised framework document outlining the day-to-day relationship between Government and the Information Commissioner—will result in a real and tangible enhancement to his independence”.
Crossrail (Woolwich Station)
I am pleased to inform the House today of a positive conclusion to discussions with Berkeley Homes on the funding of Woolwich station box.
In 2007, an initial agreement was reached between Crossrail Ltd, the Department for Transport, Transport for London and Berkeley Homes. This agreement stated that Berkeley Homes would build the basic box structure of a station at Woolwich and subsequently construct their own extensive mixed-use development above it. This would be done at Berkeley Homes’ cost and risk, to the specification laid down by Crossrail Ltd, in a way that ensured that the Woolwich station box did not add to the current cost of Crossrail. This agreement was outlined to Parliament by the then Secretary of State for Transport in March 2007.
The Department for Transport, Crossrail Limited, Transport for London, and Berkeley Homes, have in recent months been working urgently to turn this initial agreement into a final, legally binding, agreement.
I am therefore pleased to inform the House today that a final agreement has now been reached by all parties. This means that engineering work on Woolwich station box can now proceed and the benefit of Crossrail investment can be secured for the residents of Woolwich.
In due course, fit-out of the Woolwich station box would be required to bring it to operational status. The Government are clear that, in line with the 2007 agreement, no additional public sector contribution can be made available to fund the fit-out of the station box. Instead, the fit-out is conditional on receiving sufficient funding contributions from developers and businesses operating in the area. Berkeley Homes has an obligation to enter into discussions with Department for Transport, Transport for London, Crossrail Ltd and Greenwich council, in order to provide for the subsequent fitting-out of the station box. All parties, including Berkeley Homes, have made clear that they understand and support this position.
I shall update the House as and when progress is made in relation to the private sector funding of the station fit-out.
Informal EU Transport Council
I attended the Informal Meeting of EU Transport Ministers, organised by the Hungarian presidency in Budapest and Gödöllo on 7 and 8 February. The theme was: “TEN-T revision: towards a long-term, well-balanced European transport network”.
In the plenary debates, I put forward the UK view that the future TEN-T budget should take account of the aftermath of the financial crisis and the need to put recovery on a strong footing. EU funding will be limited and should be focused on projects that deliver real benefits to the network. Cost benefit analysis should inform funding decisions. Member states should aim to do more with less, concentrating on projects that deliver the best value for money. We think that the current model should be followed, focusing funding on the core network, with some funding also available for the comprehensive network.
In the debate on the role of PPPs, I pointed out that PPP is only appropriate in selected circumstances, implementation can present challenges and requires a high level of commercial skills, and particular attention needs to be paid to the long-term budgetary consequences of its use. I cited the M6 toll road and River Severn crossings as good examples of private investment enabling major pieces of infrastructure to be constructed and the cost returned through tolling. I said that the UK Government are open to tolling as an option for brand new alignments, with potential private sector investment, but noted that we have ruled out the introduction of a national road-user charging scheme (except in relation to heavy goods vehicles).
In the margins of the event I was pleased to be able to have a meeting with the vice president of the European Commission responsible for transport, Mr Siim Kallas, to discuss a range of current issues.
During my discussion of airport security scanners with Mr Kallas, I welcomed the Commission’s general approach to the deployment of scanners. We now need to move quickly to amend existing European legislation to give airports the flexibility to deploy scanners effectively and efficiently. The decision on whether to deploy security scanners should be for member states. We acknowledge health, data protection and privacy concerns and believe that these can be addressed through existing European and national laws.
I also discussed the transport aspects of transposition of the air quality directive with Mr Kallas. I pointed out that, although we are fully committed to improving air quality, and we recognise the part that transport has to play, we are keen to ensure that the air quality targets are properly targeted at improvements in health, and are consistent with our ambitious goals to reduce carbon and to create growth.
Basic Carbon Tool (Local Authorities)
To complement the local transport White Paper “Creating Growth, Cutting Carbon”, my Department has been working on a basic carbon tool for local authorities to assist them in demonstrating the carbon benefits of transport interventions in their areas.
Today, I am pleased to announce the publication of the draft basic carbon tool for local authorities on my Department’s website1.
The tool fully supports local authorities in making their own decisions about the carbon benefits of small-scale interventions and enables them to input their own assumptions and data from best estimates of take-up and effects for their areas. The tool also brings together in one place central research on local transport and carbon, improves access to national transport data which can impact on emissions and simplifies carbon appraisal guidance.
The tool can assist authorities in demonstrating the carbon benefits of bids to the local sustainable transport fund, but it is for local authorities to decide what tools and evidence best meet the criteria and objectives of the fund in the context of their overall bids.
My Department plans to publish the final tool in the summer.
My officials have sent a letter to all local authority chief executives inviting views on the tool. A copy of this letter has been placed in the House Library.
1The web address is: http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/regional/policy/carbon-tool/xls1/tool.xls