Written Ministerial Statements
Monday 31 October 2011
Business, Innovation and Skills
Local Economic Growth
The Government announced in April the outcome of the first round of the regional growth fund and at the same time launched round 2, bidding for which closed on 1 July.
I am pleased to announce today the outcome of that second round. Round 2 proved to be equally popular as round 1, attracting 492 bids for a total of £3.3 billion. The independent advisory panel, chaired by Lord Heseltine considered all these bids over the summer and made their recommendations to Ministers. Given the high number and quality of bids received, Ministers were only able to approve the very best bids that offered the greatest value for money and I am pleased to announce the outcome of this process today.
In total, the Government have made conditional allocations in this round, subject to due diligence, of the remaining £950 million. There are 119 successful bids announced today. Discussions are ongoing with a further 10 bidders about their projects. More importantly, the public investment in these projects and programmes is expected to generate nearly £6 billion of private sector funding. Overall these investments will directly support the creation or safeguarding more than 37,000 jobs. In addition, over a further 164,000 jobs in related supply chains and local economies will be created and safeguarded by the success of these projects and programme.
These conditional allocations of Government investment are supporting dynamic and innovative projects and programmes that will generate new jobs the length and breadth of England. In round 1, the RGF elicited a 5:1 ratio of private sector investment. In round 2 this has increased to 6:1. The increased proportion of private sector leverage in this round is a clear demonstration of how the challenge of the regional growth fund has acted as a catalyst for the private sector to invest in sustainable and balanced growth.
The successful bids will now be subject to a due diligence process, as with round 1 bids. These due diligence checks establish whether the Government are confident that the organisations awarded conditional offers are able to deliver on the proposals in their bid. A list of the successful bids is attached to this statement, a copy of which has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses and is also available from the BIS website at: www.bis.gov.uk.
The Government remain wholly committed to our agenda of generating growth and I am pleased that today’s announcement takes us further towards our goal of delivering a stable, well-balanced economy that creates sustainable private sector jobs and strengthens communities.
Successful bids list from Round 2
Note—Although 119 bids have been successful the list below includes beneficiaries who were part of a package bid (a bid with two or more beneficiaries). Furthermore, a small number of bids have not been included in the list due to, for example, commercial sensitivities. Details on these bids will be made available after due diligence.
East Midlands and South East Midlands: 1,400 direct jobs, 7,800 indirect jobs.
University of Leicester
JC Bamford Excavators Ltd
Usha Martin UK Limited
Federal-Mogul Friction Products Limited
Disley Tissue Ltd
North East: 8,500 direct jobs, 17,000 indirect jobs.
Process Technologies Division of Johnson Matthey PLC
Tioxide Europe Limited
Fine Industries Limited
Wellstream International Ltd
AKS Precision Ball Europe Limited
Darchem Engineering Limited
Bignall Lubritec Ltd
BLS Electronics Ltd
Carlton & Co
Tinsley Special Products Limited
Vantec Europe Limited
Able UK Limited
PD Teesport Limited
Zegen (Wilton) Limited
TeraVerdae BioWorks Ltd
Northern Pinetree Trust
Northeast of England Process Industry Cluster Limited (NEPIC)
Aesica Pharmaceuticals Limited
Piramal Healthcare UK Ltd
Shasun Pharma Solutions Ltd
Precision Hydraulic Cylinders (UK) Ltd
International Pipeline Products Limited
Greencroft Bottling Company Limited
Propeller (GB) Ltd
Omega North East Ltd
Hydram Engineering Ltd
HE Woolley Ltd. (The Company)
John Harrison (Stockton) Limited
Mediaworks UK LTD
Responsive Engineering Group Limited
Riverside Flooring LTD
Calsonic Kansei Sunderland Limited
Unipres (UK) Limited
ThyssenKrupp Tallent Limited
Heerema Hartlepool Limited
TRW Systems Ltd—Peterlee
Narec Development Services Limited (NDSL)
North West: 7,800 direct jobs, 39,500 indirect jobs.
University of Liverpool
Pirelli Tyres Ltd
Phoenix Court Blackburn Limited
Gilbert Gilkes and Gordon Limited (“Gilkes”)
Crown Speciality Packaging UK Ltd
Redx Pharma Ltd
Double R Controls Limited
C&C Baseline Ltd
Standish Engineering Ltd
Double R Controls Ltd
North West Aerospace Alliance
Eldonians Group Limited,
Energy Coast West Cumbria Ltd
The Listen Media Company LTD
The Greater Manchester LEP
Diodes Zetex Semiconductors Ltd
Ferguson Polycom Limited
Salford City Council
Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council (“TMBC”)
Economic Solutions Ltd
Pochin Developments Limited
Keepmoat Homes Ltd
Regenerate Pennine Lancashire Limited
Lucite International UK Ltd
HMG Paints Ltd
Pilkington United Kingdom Limited
Getrag Ford Transmissions
South East: 7,400 direct jobs, 22,300 indirect jobs.
Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust
Solent Local Enterprise Partnership
Southampton City Council
The East Kent districts of Canterbury, Dover, Shepway and Thanet
Vestas Technology UK Ltd,
Luton Borough Council
Lotus Cars Ltd
South West: 5,300 direct jobs, 17,600 indirect jobs
Mulberry Company (design) Ltd
DTR VMS Ltd
Airbus Operations Ltd
Geothermal Engineering Ltd
The Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly LEP
City of Bristol College
North Somerset Council
West Midlands: 3,900 direct jobs, 29,800 indirect jobs.
LNX Distribution Limited
Zytek Automotive Ltd
Aeromet International Plc
Alamo Manufacturing Services (UK) Limited
Moorland & City Railways Ltd.
Sunsolar Energy Limited
Caparo Precision Strip
Angle Ring Holdings Limited
Thomas Dudley Limited
NDC Polythenes Ltd
Pargat & Co Limited
Stoke-on-Trent Regeneration Ltd
Hinckley & Bosworth Borough Council
Advanced Engineering Supply Chain
Steelite International plc
Ceram Research Ltd
Trac Group Limited
Yorkshire & Humber: 3,000 direct jobs, 13,700 indirect jobs.
SEW Eurodrive UK
Cummins Turbo Technologies
Surgical Innovations Ltd
East Riding of Yorkshire Council
University of Sheffield—AMRC
Sirius Minerals, Plc
Leeds City Region
North Lincolnshire Council
City of Bradford MDC
Sheffield Forgemasters International Limited
Stainless Plating Limited
T&N Plastics Limited
600 UK Ltd
RoadTankers Northern Ltd
VTL (Europe) Ltd
i-plas Products Ltd
Halifax Rack and Screw Cutting Co Ltd
Treves UK LTD
Severn Unival Ltd
Other bids—national: 200 direct jobs, 16,500 indirect jobs
Santander UK plc
Communities and Local Government
Local Government Finance
I am today publishing a consultation paper entitled “Technical Reforms of Council Tax”. It follows, in part, from the local government resource review’s commitment to consider what flexibilities local authorities should have to help keep overall council tax levels down. It discusses a series of practical proposals which will help hardworking families and pensioners with their council tax bills.
Its proposals for discussion include:
Giving councils the flexibility to reduce or remove council tax relief on second homes and empty homes, allowing councils to use the money to keep overall council tax bills down and/or spend on improving front-line services. These flexibilities would potentially allow for a £20 reduction in the bill for a typical band D property in England. Getting empty homes back into use will increase housing supply and tackle property blight. Councils can already reduce the second homes discount to just 10%—we propose giving councils the local discretion to charge the normal rate of council tax. The job-related second homes discount (where someone has to live in a dwelling because of their job) would be unaffected. Indeed, our Government have increased the help the armed forces scheme gives for service personnel towards council tax. There is nothing morally wrong with second homes, but special tax relief at the expense of ordinary homeowners is difficult to justify. I believe local taxpayers would welcome the prospect of having a lower council tax bill than would otherwise be the case as a result of empty homes no longer being given favoured tax treatment.
The paper also consults on the empty homes premium for long-term properties announced by Ministers in September. I would note that there are no plans to change the rules on council tax relief currently available in respect of properties left empty because a person has moved into a hospital or care home, has died, or has moved to provide care to another. These are special circumstances. Moreover, councils will be encouraged to use their existing powers to apply discretionary discounts in cases where homes are empty due to other justifiable circumstances—for example, hardship, fire or flooding.
Giving local residents a new right to pay their council tax bills in 12 monthly payments, rather than 10 instalments over a year. This will make it easier for local taxpayers to manage their payments, especially those on fixed incomes like pensioners.
Encouraging the greater use of electronic billing by allowing the associated documents that have to be supplied in hard copy with council tax bills to be provided electronically instead. Local taxpayers would still have a right to hard copy documents, for free, on request. Utility companies routinely offer discounts for customers who pay by e-billing and direct debit, and this is something I am keen to promote for council tax.
Ensuring there are no increases in the tax liabilities of homes as a result of domestic scale photovoltaic solar panels being installed by a third party supplier under a “rent a roof” scheme. These changes will avoid the imposition of a “sun tax” and the need for inspections of homes with solar panels.
Reviewing the circumstances in which giving a self-contained (“granny”) annex its own council tax liability and banding is appropriate; this is a very complex area of legislation, but I appreciate that there has been some public concern that the current regime is unfair on some homeowners.
These practical improvements complement our other reforms to council tax: cancelling the council tax revaluation which would have forced up bills for millions of homes; working with local councils to deliver a two-year council tax freeze; and giving local residents a new right to veto excessive council tax increases. It contrasts with the last Administration who doubled council tax.
A copy of the consultation paper is available in the Library and on my Department’s website.
Energy and Climate Change
Today I am publishing a consultation paper on proposed changes to feed-in tariffs (FITs) for solar photovoltaics (PV). The consultation will close on 23 December 2011.
Since the FITs scheme started it has been successful in encouraging people up and down the country to get involved in local, clean green energy generation. Over 100,000 homes now generate their own electricity, and this is just the start of a move towards a far more decentralised local energy economy—an economy in which homes, businesses and communities are empowered to generate their own energy, and in which low-carbon innovation helps sustain green jobs at a critical time for our economy. A sustainable FITs scheme has an essential role in delivering that vision.
However, the green economy does not exist in a vacuum and it is important, particularly in the current climate, that our approach to public subsidy is responsible and results in the widest possible deployment. To date, solar PV has been by far the most popular technology with consumers. We know that the costs of an average PV system have fallen by at least 30% since the FITs scheme started (and we are aware of reports that the global costs of PV modules have fallen by as much as 70% since 2008). This is resulting in returns for investors in solar PV that are simply not sustainable and, without action, could result in the spending envelope for the scheme rapidly being breached.
Today’s consultation document therefore focuses on addressing the budgetary problem and proposes reducing the tariffs for solar PV. Full details of the proposals are set out in the consultation document. The headline is that we are proposing that the generation tariff for PV installations with a total installed capacity of 4kW or less will be reduced to 21p/kWh, which our modelling indicates should deliver around a 4.5% rate of return. We are also proposing reductions to the generation tariffs for PV installations above that level and up to 250kW. These changes are vital if we are to ensure a lasting FITs scheme.
We are proposing that the new generation tariffs should apply from 1 April 2012 to all new solar PV installations which become eligible for FITs on or after an earlier “reference date” which we propose should be 12 December 2011. Installations which become eligible for FITs before the reference date will not be affected and will continue to be eligible for the current generation tariffs.
The consultation also seeks views on two other changes to the FITs scheme for solar PV. First, the introduction from 1 April 2012 of new multi-installation tariff rates for aggregated solar PV schemes. These are schemes where a single individual or organisation owns or receives FIT payments from more than one PV installation, located on different sites.
A final but crucial proposal in this package is to strengthen the link between FITs and energy efficiency by introducing a new energy efficiency requirement for FITs for solar PV. The new requirement would apply to all new solar PV installations which become eligible for FITs on or after 1 April 2012 which are attached or wired to provide electricity to a building. If the building does not meet the energy efficiency requirement the installation would receive a lower FITs rate of 9p/kWh.
This consultation is the first of two on the comprehensive review of FITs that was announced at the start of the year. We will be publishing a separate consultation around the end of 2011 which will consider other aspects of the scheme including the tariffs for other FIT technologies. It will also consider proposals to make the FITs scheme more intelligent and responsive to change, improving the system that we inherited from the previous Administration to remove the need for stop start reviews and provide greater transparency, longevity and certainty to the industry.
I promised to update the House about ongoing activity in relation to Winterbourne View private hospital and other facilities for people with learning disabilities.
Since I announced that Winterbourne View had closed and that the Care Quality Commission (CQC) had published its compliance report on Winterbourne View on 18 July, the CQC has inspected another 23 Castlebeck Care services in England. Its inspection reports were published on 28 July and are available on the CQC website at www.cqc.org.uk. While half of these services were compliant with safety and quality requirements, the CQC had more serious concerns about four locations and has taken further action in relation to these. Two of these homes, Rose Villa and Arden Vale, closed in August.
In June, CQC announced a programme of unannounced inspections of services for people with learning disabilities following the abuse uncovered at Winterbourne View. CQC has now begun this programme of inspections of 150 hospitals and care homes which is looking at a sample of services for people with learning disabilities similar to those provided at Winterbourne View.
The CQC inspection programme will assess how well people with learning disabilities experience effective, safe and appropriate care, treatment and support that meets their needs and protects their rights; and whether they are protected from abuse. As at 24 October, inspectors had visited 27 locations and are in the process of considering the evidence.
As in the case of CQC’s review of the 23 Castlebeck services, where CQC finds that a service is failing to meet the safety and quality requirements, it has powers to take appropriate action which include demanding improvements, issuing a formal warning notice or in the most serious cases closing down a service.
CQC will publish reports for each location setting out its findings and a national overview in spring 2012. A second phase of the review will use the learning from phase one to look at a sample of other registered services covering alternative models of provision for people with learning disabilities.
The results of the CQC inspections programme will feed into the wider Department of Health review of the lessons from Winterbourne View. We are still gathering evidence from the serious case review and the NHS serious untoward incident review, and taking the views of organisations and individuals on how services for people with learning disabilities and challenging behaviour can be improved.
While these reviews and inspections are ongoing we are taking action to address emerging issues. For example, CQC have amended their whistle-blowing policy. Where issues for local management are highlighted in the NHS review, they will be developing actions plans to deal with this.
Ministers will publish and report to Parliament on the Government’s response to their findings.
I will continue to update the House on further developments.
European Account Preservation Order
My right hon. Friend, the Minister of State, Lord McNally, has made the following written ministerial statement:
The Government have today decided not to opt in to the European Commission’s proposed regulation creating a European Account Preservation Order to facilitate cross-border debt recovery in civil and commercial matters.
The aim of the Commission’s proposal is to establish a self-standing European procedure for a protective measure to freeze the bank accounts of debtors in cross-border cases. The Government welcome the Commission’s objective. It supports measures which make it easier for both businesses and citizens to resolve disputes and enforce judgments across borders. Many of those who responded to the Government’s recent consultation on this proposal also welcomed its aims and agreed with the Commission that a procedure which made it easier for claimants to take protective measures in cross-border cases would be useful to both individuals and businesses in helping them to recover debts.
However, the consultation also revealed a number of significant problems, in particular a widespread concern that there was a lack of adequate safeguards for defendants. Issues highlighted included that the threshold for obtaining an order was too low, that there is no requirement for the claimant to provide any security to compensate a defendant for losses suffered from the wrongful grant of an order, and that there should be more discretion for courts when deciding whether to issue an order or the amount for which it should be granted.
Given the apparent ease with which an order might be obtained fears were expressed about the possible dangers posed to companies which were in the process of restructuring or rescue where the freezing of a bank account could undermine the rescue and make insolvency more likely.
Concerns were also raised about the burdens the proposal is likely to place on both the Government and banks, in particular through the provisions of access to information on bank accounts.
Although the Government have decided that the UK should not opt in to the proposal now, it intends to participate fully in the negotiations with the hope that sufficient changes will be made to enable a post-adoption opt in.
Deaths of Service Personnel Overseas
My hon. Friend the Minister for the Armed Forces and I wish to make the latest of our quarterly statements to the House giving details of the inquests of service personnel who have died overseas. We remain deeply grateful to all of our service personnel who have served, or are now serving, in Iraq and Afghanistan.
We wish once more to express our sincere condolences to the families of those service personnel who have given their lives for their country in connection with the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in particular the six service personnel who have died since our last statement. Their families, and all the bereaved families, will remain in our thoughts.
Today we are announcing the current status of inquests conducted by the Wiltshire and Swindon coroner, the Oxfordshire coroner, and other coroners in England and Wales. This statement gives the position at 21 October 2011.
To supplement this statement I have placed tables in the Libraries of both Houses, outlining the status of all cases and showing the date of death in each case. The tables also provide information about cases where a board of inquiry or a service inquiry has been held.
Our Departments will continue working closely together to improve our processes. We will continue the Government’s support for coroners who are conducting inquests into operational deaths, and we are grateful to them and their staff for their dedicated work. We wish to express our thanks to all those who provide support and information, both throughout the inquest process and afterwards.
Since October 2007 both Departments have provided additional resources for operational inquests. These resources have been provided to the Wiltshire and Swindon coroner, Mr David Ridley, as prior to 1 September 2011 repatriation of service personnel took place at RAF Lyneham. These measures have been provided to ensure that there is not a backlog of operational inquests. As I confirmed in the last statement, we are also providing additional resources to the Oxfordshire coroner, Mr Nicholas Gardiner, as repatriation ceremonies for those killed on operations overseas now take place at RAF Brize Norton, within his district.
Current status of inquests
Since the last statement there have been 18 inquests into the deaths of service personnel on operations in Iraq or Afghanistan.
A total of 498 inquests have been held into the deaths of service personnel who have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, including 15 service personnel who died in the UK of their injuries. In three further cases, no formal inquest was held. In two of these cases the deaths were taken into consideration during inquest proceedings for those who died in the same incident. In the third case, where the serviceman died of his injuries in Scotland, it was decided not to hold a fatal accident inquiry.
Fatalities in Iraq and Afghanistan
There are currently 61 open inquests to be concluded into the deaths of service personnel who died in Iraq and Afghanistan and one inquest is yet to be opened. Eighteen of these involve deaths in the last six months. The Wiltshire and Swindon coroner has retained 18 of the remaining open inquests, and 34 are being conducted by coroners closer to the next of kin. Hearing dates have been set in 12 cases.
There is one remaining open inquest into deaths from operations in Iraq.
Inquests into the deaths of service personnel who returned home injured
Nine inquests remain to be held of service personnel who returned home injured and subsequently died of their injuries. Five hearing dates have been set. The remaining four cases will be listed for hearing when the continuing investigations are completed.
We shall continue to inform the House of progress with the remaining inquests.
Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting
I attended the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Perth, Australia, which took place from 28 to 30 October. The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and the Ministers of State (Lord Howell and Lord Green) also attended.
Her Majesty the Queen opened the meeting in her role as Head of the Commonwealth.
The Government believe strongly in the relevance of the Commonwealth and its networks, and the role that it can play in global issues of the day. It is unique in that it brings together a diverse range of countries, economies, and a predominantly young population looking to the future. In our programme for government, we expressed commitment to strengthen the Commonwealth to promote democratic values, development and prosperity.
The UK strongly supported the work of the eminent persons group (EPG) and the Commonwealth ministerial action group (CMAG) to make the Commonwealth more effective. Leaders adopted a series of reforms, the most significant in recent Commonwealth history, to ensure the organisation can better protect its core democratic values, and retain its credibility on the global stage. This included agreement on CMAG reform and to have a Commonwealth charter. Thirty of the 106 recommendations of the EPG were adopted at Perth. Discussions of the others will continue, and Foreign Ministers will meet again during 2012 to conclude these discussions.
Leaders welcomed Rwanda to its first summit as a full Commonwealth member and noted South Sudan’s application for membership. Ongoing interest in membership further demonstrates the continued relevance of the Commonwealth and its role supporting democratic development in members and applicant countries. In this regard, leaders urged the interim Government of Fiji, currently suspended from the Commonwealth, to restore democracy without further delay, respect human rights and uphold the rule of law. Leaders also looked forward to the conditions being created for the return of Zimbabwe to the Commonwealth and encouraged the parties to implement the global political agreement faithfully and effectively.
Leaders noted the threat that climate change poses to security, prosperity, and economic and social development and committed to advocacy leading to legally binding outcomes at the UNFCCC conference in Durban and beyond. They also urged the G20 to take the necessary steps to address current economic instability and to take concrete steps to put open trade, jobs, social protection and economic development at the heart of the recovery.
To mark Her Majesty’s diamond jubilee, and as a gift to the Commonwealth people, Leaders welcomed the establishment of a Queen Elizabeth diamond jubilee trust. This will support charitable projects and organisations across the Commonwealth, focusing on areas such as tackling curable diseases, promotion of all forms of education and culture, and other Commonwealth priorities. It will be funded by private donations and voluntary contributions from Governments.
To strengthen the Commonwealth’s ability to meet the development needs of member states, leaders agreed the Perth declaration on food security principles and discussed the inherent development challenges facing small, vulnerable states.
I believe that the outcomes achieved in Perth will help reinvigorate this unique organisation. The Commonwealth can help contribute to the UK’s foreign policy and trade objectives not just through the intergovernmental links, but also through its networks of civil society and professional associations. The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, in a speech to the Commonwealth people’s forum, made clear the UK’s desire to see homosexuality decriminalised and the death penalty abolished across the Commonwealth. Lord Howell and Lord Green both addressed the biggest Commonwealth business forum to date, which will lead to increased intra-Commonwealth trade, and trade with the UK. Ministers also engaged with participants of the Commonwealth youth forum—tomorrow’s leaders and the future of the Commonwealth.
Leaders noted the decision made in 2009 that Sri Lanka would host the 2013 summit, Mauritius in 2015, and welcomed Malaysia’s bid to host in 2019. As host of CHOGM, we shall look to Sri Lanka to demonstrate its commitment to upholding Commonwealth values of good governance and human rights. A key part of this will be addressing long standing issues around accountability and reconciliation after the war.
Copies of the concluding communiqué and the reports of the eminent persons group and the Commonwealth ministerial action group have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
Separately at Perth, the 16 Commonwealth realms agreed in principle that we should modernise the Act of Settlement with regard to the rules of royal succession. This will set in motion a historic process to end the system of male preference primogeniture and the provision that anyone who marries a Roman Catholic would be ineligible to succeed to the Crown. A copy of the agreed wording will also be placed in the Libraries.