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Written Statements

Volume 535: debated on Tuesday 8 November 2011

Written Ministerial Statements

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Energy and Climate Change

Statutory Security of Supply Report

I have today laid before Parliament the 2011 statutory security of supply report (SSSR), which has been produced jointly with Ofgem and with input from National Grid. The report is a technical document that provides factual information to the market on security of supply. The report covers electricity, gas and oil. The latter is not a statutory requirement but is included for completeness. I have placed a copy of this report in the Libraries of both Houses.

In addition, I am also publishing today a risk assessment produced for the purpose of the EU Security of Gas Supply Regulation 994/2010. This is available on the DECC website at:

http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/meeting_ energy/en_security/eu_sec_reg/eu_sec_reg.aspx.

Defence

Pingat Jasa Malaysia

Her Majesty the Queen has given her approval to a recommendation from the Committee on the Grant of Honours Decorations and Medals that those entitled to accept the Pingat Jasa Malaysia (PJM) medal should now also be permitted to wear it.

The Government of Malaysia introduced the medal in 2005 and awarded it to British and Commonwealth veterans who had served in the conflict in Malaya in the late 1950s and 1960s. Approval is not normally given for foreign medals to be accepted if British recognition for the same campaign has already been presented. As an exception, veterans were originally permitted to accept but not wear the medal. This was done to recognise the generous gesture by the King and Government of Malaysia, and their wish to award the PJM in recognition of service given by many veterans in the difficult years leading up to and following Malaysian independence.

Following this change to the original decision we are taking action to ensure that as many holders of the medal as possible are aware, to enable them to wear their medal with pride at remembrance events this week.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Single Payment Scheme

In the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on 14 July, Official Report, columns 40-44WS, she explained that the Rural Payments Agency business plan for 2011-12 would be updated when the agency’s strategic improvement plan (SIP) was finalised. Work on constructing that plan is progressing well and the new RPA management team are already taking forward some components. However, as there may be public expenditure implications, it has been necessary to factor in additional time for scrutiny and approvals processes before the plan can be finalised. Consequently, my expectation is that the SIP will now be ready for publication in the first quarter of 2012.

In the meantime, the RPA oversight board, which I chair, has reviewed the existing indicator in the business plan for demonstrating that payments under the 2011 single payment scheme (SPS) are made in an accurate and cost-effective manner. In doing so, we have considered progress on both 2011 scheme processing and work to address legacy errors. In line with my earlier statements, the agency has been undertaking corrective action on the remaining known legacy data problems alongside the processing of 2011 SPS claims. I am pleased to say that that corrective work on the known error cases remains on track to be completed by the end of the payment window on 30 June 2012, with further analysis planned on potential cases. Outstanding top-up payments have already been completed in respect of 2010 claims and are significantly advanced in respect of long-standing requests raised by claimants relating to earlier scheme year claims.

Against that background the oversight board has agreed the following additional indicators for 2011 SPS:

by the end of December 2011 to have paid a minimum of 86% of eligible claimants and 78% of the total estimated value;

by the end of March 2012 to have paid a minimum of 95% of both the eligible claimants and the total estimated value.

These indicators reflect a change in the focus of the agency’s efforts towards processing the more difficult cases at an earlier stage, which is expected to increase the value of payments made at the beginning of the payment window while maintaining performance on the numbers of claimants paid in that period. Each individual indicator betters or matches performance under any previous scheme year while both reducing, rather than adding to, legacy problems and operating with a much-reduced budget. That represents a stride forward for the agency but, as I discussed with leaders of farming representative bodies last week, there remains some distance to go before I could be happy that farmers are receiving the service they deserve. I am clear that further strides towards that goal must be made in the indicators that are set for subsequent years and that communications with farmers who are not paid early in the window must be improved now. I know the RPA chief executive has heard the clear message from farm leaders on the latter point and will ensure steps are taken to address it over the coming months.

I will continue to keep the House informed on the agency’s progress.

Transport

High-speed Rail

As the House will know, since taking up office as Secretary of State, a key early priority for me is to make a decision on the way forward following the Government’s recent consultation on high-speed rail (HS2).

My Department received around 55,000 responses to the consultation and an analysis of them has been undertaken. I am being provided with detailed information on the issues raised. This will provide me with extensive evidence in respect of all the issues that will affect my decision.

A number of colleagues have understandably requested meetings regarding HS2 and I believe it is important that that there should be an opportunity for me to hear directly from MPs on their views about HS2. Given that the consultation has closed, due process means it would not be proper for me to respond to any substantive points that are made at this meeting.

I wish to place on record that I will be providing MPs with an opportunity for such a meeting. I have scheduled this meeting for 21 November and have written to all Members to ask them if they wish to attend. The meeting will take place in the Palace of Westminster. In the interests of transparency, I will arrange for a transcript to be made available, as a public record of the proceedings.

Triennial Review of NDPBs (HS2 Ltd)

Reducing the number and cost of public bodies is a coalition priority. The triennial review process has been established to continue our work ensuring accountability in public life by examining all non-departmental public bodies at least once every three years. I am announcing today the triennial review of HS2 Ltd. This review has two aims:

to provide a robust challenge of the continuing need for this NDPB—both its functions and form; and,

if it is agreed that it should remain as an NDPB, to review the control and governance arrangements in place to ensure that the public body is complying with recognised principles of good corporate governance.

The triennial review will build upon the internal review of the body conducted earlier this year.

I will announce the findings of the review later this year in line with the decision on the response to the consultation on high-speed rail.

If you would like further information, or to contribute to the review, please contact my Department or highspeedrail@dft.gov.uk.

I remain committed to the ongoing review of public bodies and my Department continues to work with the Cabinet Office to develop forward plans of reviews.

Home Department

Deportation with Assurances

I am pleased to announce that on Saturday 24 September my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, and His Excellency Taieb Fassi Fihri, Moroccan Foreign Minister, signed a memorandum of understanding between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Government of the Kingdom of Morocco concerning the provision of assurances in respect of persons subject to deportation on grounds of national security.

Copies of the memorandum of understanding have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses and on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website.

There are a number of outstanding elements of the arrangement which UK and Moroccan officials are continuing to negotiate, along with a number of other judicial agreements and arrangements. We will publish further details when this process is complete.

The Government are committed to strengthening our bilateral relationship with Morocco across a range of fields, including measures to combat the shared threat from terrorism.