Written Ministerial Statements
Monday 26 March 2012
Business, Innovation and skills
Intellectual Property Office (Performance Targets)
My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, (Baroness Wilcox) has today made the following statement:
I would like to advise the House of certain changes to the targets set for the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) for 2012-13. The revised targets are as follows:
1. Publish the Government’s decisions on changes to copyright legislation proposed by the Hargreaves review, following consultation.
2. Make progress during 2012-13 on key European policy dossiers so as to reflect UK priorities.
3. Pursue UK business interests in IP in key emerging markets throughout 2012-13 by promoting the development of strong national IP regimes and delivering a refreshed portfolio of products and services for UK businesses overseas.
4. Efficiently deliver high-quality patents, so that 90% of patent search reports are issued within four months.
5. Efficiently deliver high-quality trade marks so that:
a. Between April 2012 and December 2012 applications for trade marks, for which we have not raised any issue and no opposition has been filed, are registered within four months in 85% of cases, within five months of 90% of cases, and within six months in 95%; and
Between January 2013 and March 2013 applications for trade marks, for which we have not raised any issue and no opposition has been filed, are registered within seven months in 70% of cases.
b. The correct decision is made in at least 99% of applications.
6. Our business outreach activities will reach at least 25,000 businesses, 85% of whom (based on a sample) will say that what they learned has helped improve their (or their clients’) business performance.
7. Surveyed IPO customers will give an average score of eight out of 10 for the service they receive.
8. Achieve a return on capital employed of 4%.
9. Deliver an efficiency gain of 3.5%.
10. Improve the IPO’s engagement index so that our score is at least equal to that of the Civil Service 2012 benchmark.
These targets reflect the purpose of the Intellectual Property Office, which is to promote innovation by providing a clear, accessible and widely understood IP framework, to enable creators, users and consumers to benefit from knowledge and ideas.
Principal Civil Service Pensions Scheme
At the spending review 2010 the Government announced increases to member contribution rates in public service pension schemes saving £2.8 billion a year by 2014-15, to be phased in from April 2012. The contributions are to be increased progressively with protection for the low paid, to minimise the potential for members to opt out of the scheme.
Last year the Cabinet Office consulted on a structure of tiered contribution rates that meet the requirements. The consultation opened on 28 July 2011 and closed on 20 October 2011, and over 3,400 responses were received. These regulations bring the increased contribution rates into force, which will apply to service from 1 April 2012 and continue throughout the financial year. The Government remain committed to securing in full the spending review savings in 2013-14 and 2014-15 from further increases to member contributions in public service pension schemes, and will consult formally on implementation in due course.
Copies of the amendment scheme have been laid before the House.
HMS Vengeance (Long Overhaul Period)
I wish to inform the House that the Ministry of Defence has signed a contract valued at £350 million with Babcock Marine Ltd for the long overhaul period (Refuelling) (LOP(R)) for HMS Vengeance, to take place at Devonport dockyard, Plymouth. HMS Vengeance is one of the four Vanguard class submarines carrying Trident missiles which provide the UK’s strategic nuclear deterrent.
The LOP(R) is essential to enable HMS Vengeance to remain operational. The Work programme, which is scheduled to last approximately three and a half years, will involve the installation of a new reactor core, the energy source that powers the 15,000 tonne vessel. The new core will provide the submarine with sufficient fuel for the remainder of her planned service life. The LOP(R) will also include the installation of improved strategic weapons system equipment and the integration of a tactical weapons submarine command system. The LOP(R) will also enable Vengeance to achieve safety re-certification.
The awarding of the £350 million contract will secure around 1,300 jobs in Devonport dockyard, with a further 700 in the supply chain. It will ensure that Devonport remains a centre of engineering excellence, preserving the UK’s sovereign capability and many highly skilled jobs for years to come. The contract has been awarded using an improved performance-based contracting strategy agreed as part of the Babcock marine terms of business agreement, which aims to return significant savings of several hundred million pounds to the MOD over the 15-year duration of the agreement.
This is the last time the Royal Navy’s submarines will require refuelling, as newer classes of submarines are designed with sufficient fuel for their entire service life. Extended maintenance periods, however, will still be required to ensure safe and effective operation of submarines, so the unique capability at Devonport to carry out deep maintenance will remain vital in the future.
Iraq Historic Allegations Team
On 1 November 2010, I informed the House that the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) had been established and had started work to investigate the allegations of abuse of Iraqi citizens by British service personnel that had been brought to the MOD’s attention.
Since its inception, the IHAT has been under the superintendence of the Provost Marshal (Army) and has employed a number of Royal Military Police (RMP) personnel, as well as retired civilian police investigators.
The IHAT arrangements have now been the subject of a detailed scrutiny by the Court of Appeal, in particular as to whether it would meet the requirements of independence. The Court examined the responsibilities of RMP personnel and other members of the Army’s provost branch in relation to detainees in Iraq. It emphasised that there was no evidence of any member of that branch actually being involved in misconduct against detainees. But the Court concluded that the existence of those responsibilities meant that there was the possibility that the IHAT would have to look into their conduct. This means that an IHAT involving the RMP would allow the public perception of the possibility of bias.
I have absolute confidence in the ability and integrity of the Provost Marshal (Army) and of the Royal Military Police, to conduct appropriate and effective investigations. At the same time, however, public confidence in the IHAT’s work is extremely important to the Government, as is the Army’s reputation. I accept the Court’s conclusion as to public perception and the issues that may arise in the context of a full investigation into these allegations.
We will not, therefore, seek to overturn the decision of the Court of Appeal. The MOD will, instead, reconfigure the IHAT to meet the Court of Appeal’s concerns. I have therefore decided to remove the Royal Military Police role in relation to the IHAT. Instead, that role will be carried out by the Royal Navy Police, which is headed by the Provost Marshal (Navy). This change is already being implemented and will be complete by 1 April 2012.
Given further concerns raised by the claimants regarding the location of the IHAT, we will also look into the cost-effectiveness of relocating its investigations away from a military base. Such changes would necessarily increase the duration and cost of the investigations and in the current financial climate it is not clear that they would be justified; accordingly I have set work in hand to test this issue.
It is important to note that the Court of Appeal judgment did not state that a public inquiry was needed into these allegations. However, the Secretary of State for Defence will keep this under review in light of the results of IHAT’s investigations.
The IHAT is also best placed to undertake two further related investigations that have emerged since it was set up. These additional investigations will start once the IHAT has been restructured:
The previous Secretary of State committed the MOD to a review of the Baha Mousa public inquiry report to assess whether more can be done to bring those responsible for the mistreatment of Baha Mousa to justice. An additional team will be established within IHAT to undertake this review.
The judgment last July of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of al-Skeini, has also obliged the Government to undertake additional investigations into some further cases that were not part of IHAT’s original scope. Another team will be established to investigate these specific cases.
Today I am announcing our next steps in reforming the school funding system. These build on the plans we consulted on in July 2011, “A consultation on school funding reform: Proposals for a fairer system”. Since that consultation, we have given very careful consideration to creating a system that allocates funding on a fair and transparent basis and targets additional funding towards pupils who need it the most.
The current system for funding schools makes raising the aspirations and attainment of all pupils difficult to achieve because funding does not always reach the pupils who need it most; we are clear that we need to tackle this. We want funding to follow pupils and pupils with additional need to attract additional funding. We also want to enable good schools to expand more easily so that more pupils can benefit and we want schools to know easily how their budgets have been calculated so they can plan better.
In our last consultation we sought views on the introduction of a national funding formula, which would distribute money to local authorities based on the current needs of pupils. We also proposed simplifying the way that local authorities distribute that money to schools so that the whole process is more transparent and supports the needs of pupils.
Support for reform was widespread but responses also suggested this model would need refinement and careful implementation. Getting the components and implementation of a fair national funding formula right is critical and we need to manage transition carefully so there is the minimum disturbance for schools. In the current economic climate, stability must be a priority.
The plans we are setting out today in “School funding reform: Next steps towards a fairer system” are our first steps towards introducing a national funding formula and explain how the system will operate from 2013-14.
They show how local decision-making will be much simpler, more transparent and efficient. They will mean that administrative burdens on schools, academies and local authorities will be reduced and that funding arrangements are more understandable to head teachers, principals and governors, with less need for complex data and calculations. Local arrangements will be strengthened by improvements to schools forums.
Schools will receive the stability they need as our plans also announce that the minimum funding guarantee will remain at minus 1.5% per pupil for 2013-14 and 2014-15. Schools will also be able to receive earlier notification of their budgets and academies will be funded on a more comparable and equitable basis through the Education Funding Agency.
As well as funding for schools, our plans will support locally-driven simplification of the funding arrangements for early years and a new funding system for children aged 0 to 25 who have high educational needs. Improvements to funding for high needs provision will mean it can be more responsive and will enable greater choice for children, young people and their parents.
I am also taking steps in advance of introducing a national funding formula to address a clear anomaly in the current funding system where a small number of authorities receive funding at a level that does not reflect the mandatory pay levels for teachers in their schools. The local authorities affected are Haringey, Barking and Dagenham and Newham.
All these steps will prepare us for introducing a national funding formula in the next spending review that will ensure fairer funding across the country, where funding follows pupils, schools have more control over their budgets, and children are funded on a more equitable basis no matter where they live.
Copies of this publication will be available in the Libraries of both Houses.
Energy and Climate Change
CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme
On 30 June 2011, Official Report, column 62WS, I published a vision for the way ahead in simplifying the CRC energy efficiency scheme. Since then we have engaged extensively with stakeholders and have developed a set of proposals that will radically reduce the administrative burdens for those businesses and public sector that are included in the CRC, without undermining the energy efficiency objectives of the scheme.
Tomorrow, the Department, together with the devolved Administrations, will publish a formal consultation setting out our ambitious simplification package. These proposals will radically reduce the administrative costs to participants by reducing the complexity of the scheme, and reducing the overlap with other climate legislation.
Our proposals will shorten the CRC qualification process. They will simplify what counts as a supply, and reduce the number of fuels covered by the scheme from 29 to four. These four fuels represent over 96% of total CRC emissions. We will reduce the reporting required through reducing the number of reports that participants are required to submit and the length of time participants need to keep records. We will allow companies to participate in natural business units, by allowing more flexibility to disaggregate undertakings.
I know that maximising policy coherence, and minimising unnecessary overlap between climate policies is one of business’ top asks. As we committed to last year, we will reduce the overlap between schemes at registration. In particular, climate change agreement facilities and EU emissions trading system installations will not be required to purchase CRC allowances. Our proposals will also create greater alignment between CRC and company greenhouse gas reporting (GHG) by adopting for CRC the emission factors used for GHG reporting purposes.
Our simplification proposals will remove the detailed metrics of the performance league table out of legislation, and place them in Government guidance. The flexibility of guidance will enable us to review and adapt the league table in the future to maximise its impact as a reputational driver of change. Amendments to the framework will be made in the light of experience on its impact on participants’ behaviour.
These proposals will help us meet our simplification objective of optimising the projected energy and carbon savings delivered by the CRC energy efficiency scheme while reducing the complexity and administrative cost.
My Department and the devolved Administrations welcome comments on our consultation proposals that will be published tomorrow. We will the look to implement the proposals so that the amended legislation is in place by April 2013.
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Waste Water National Policy Statement
On 19 March the House of Commons debated the waste water national policy statement which I laid for approval on 9 February 2012. In the light of the satisfactory completion of that process I am pleased to announce that I am today designating it as a national policy statement under the provisions of section 5 (1) of the Planning Act 2008, and laying copies before the House as required by section 5 (9) of the same Act.
National policy statements are critical to the new planning system which will help developers bring forward, in the case of the waste water NPS, waste water projects of national significance without facing unnecessary delays, while ensuring local people have an opportunity to say about how their communities develop, and decisions are made in an accountable way by elected Ministers.
Designation of this policy statement is a significant step forward in achieving the objectives of the Planning Act, to clarify the policy framework for nationally significant infrastructure projects, while providing a degree of certainty to developers as to what waste water infrastructure of national significance is required in the future.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
International Criminal Tribunals
In line with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s strategic framework priority of safeguarding Britain’s national security by countering terrorism and working to reduce conflict, and as a demonstration of the Government’s continued support for international justice as a key pillar of our foreign policy, I am pleased to announce additional UK funding for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia and the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
We will provide £1 million to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, taking the UK’s total contribution to £3.3 million since 2009. This contribution underlines the UK’s steadfast support for the Special Tribunal which is key to holding to account those guilty of serious crimes and ending the climate of impunity for political assassination in Lebanon. The UK is, and will remain, committed to working towards Lebanon’s continued sovereignty and stability.
We will contribute a further £750,000 to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, taking the UK’s total contribution to around £4.4 million since 2006. This demonstrates the UK’s continued commitment to Cambodian reconciliation and development and bringing justice to the victims, and families of victims of the horrific atrocities and deaths of around 2 million Cambodians under the Khmer Rouge.
Finally, we will make available an additional £600,000 for the Special Court for Sierra Leone, taking the UK’s total contribution to around £27.6 million since 2002. This will help allow the Special Court to complete the trial of Charles Taylor, former President of Liberia. The Special Court will be the first court to deliver judgment on a former head of state related to charges of war crimes for actions he took while in office.
We believe there should be no impunity for the most serious crimes at the international level. The effective prosecution of those who commit these crimes is fundamental to preventing such crimes, which in turn is vital in the development of communities which are more stable and prosperous. I take this opportunity to applaud the important continuing work of all of the international tribunals.
Parliamentary Written Question (Correction)
I regret to inform the House that there was an inaccuracy in the answer I gave to parliamentary question 85078 about staff pay to the hon. Member for Harrow West (Mr Thomas), 8 December 2011, Official Report, column 455W. The correct answer is:
Following my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury’s announcement of an urgent review of public appointments, to determine the extent of arrangements whereby the tax position is (or perceived to be) minimised, the FCO is undertaking a full review, including of our arm’s length bodies, to assess all our payroll arrangements. Full details of the review will be reported to the Cabinet Office.
Public Records (Colonial Documents)
In my statement to the House on 5 December 2011, Official Report, column 6WS, about the colonial administration files held by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), I informed the House that the first batch of files would be available at the National Archives (TNA) in April 2012. I am pleased to be able to confirm that those files will be open to the public from 18 April.
This first batch will include files from Aden, Anguilla, Bechuanaland, Brunei, British Indian Ocean Territories, Sarawak, Seychelles and Malaya as well as the first tranche of papers from Basutoland, Bahamas, Kenya and Cyprus.
Following the schedule approved by Professor Badger, the independent reviewer for the migrated archives of colonial administration files, the remaining files will be released progressively over the next 20 months. A timetable has been published on the FCO’s website. The aim is to have all the material available for public view at the National Archives at Kew by the end of 2013.
Today, the Prime Minister launches his challenge on dementia to tackle one of the most important issues we face arising from an ageing population. The challenge sets out the Government’s ambition to increase diagnosis rates, raise awareness and understanding and to strengthen substantially our research efforts.
Dementia is one of the biggest challenges we face as a society and we are determined to transform the quality of dementia care for patients and their families. In England today an estimated 670,000 people are living with dementia, a number that is increasing with one in three people set to develop dementia in the future.
England was one of the first countries in the world to have a national dementia strategy and progress has been made since the launch of the strategy in 2009. But we are determined to do more to address this challenge.
The Prime Minister’s challenge sets out three key areas where we want to go further and faster, building on the progress made through the national dementia strategy. The three areas are:
driving improvements in health and care;
creating dementia-friendly communities that understand how to help; and
We know that we need to do more to raise diagnosis rates for people with dementia, with an estimated 42% of people with dementia currently having a diagnosis. Only when the condition is diagnosed can people and their families and carers get the support they need to help them. As well as when they normally see their general practitioner, the five-yearly NHS health check will be also used as an opportunity to identify risk factors for dementia such as hypertension, alcohol and obesity. Over 65 year olds will also be made aware of memory services and those at risk will be referred on.
We are also making sure that the NHS has the right incentives to identify signs of dementia when people are in hospital. From April 2012, £54 million will be made available through the dementia commissioning for quality and innovation to NHS hospitals in England for those who assess over 75 year olds admitted to hospital to check for signs of dementia. From April 2013, we will build on that incentive so that hospitals are rewarded for demonstrating good quality care for people with dementia.
The Government will also take further steps on research. The United Kingdom is world renowned for dementia research, but we still do not know enough about this devastating condition and the level of public participation in dementia research trials remains low. The funding for research into dementia and neurodegenerative disease will double to over £66 million by 2014-15 (compared to 2009-10). The Medical Research Council will be making major funding available for BioBank with a view to scanning the brains of 50,000 to 100,000 participants. This will build a world-leading resource for research into dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases. We also want to see more people with dementia taking part in research. Inviting patients to participate in research will become part of a quality marker for memory clinics.
Finally, the challenge of dementia is not one for Government alone, but for all society. We want to develop awareness and understanding, and tackle stigma, so that all parts of society can contribute. The Government will continue to fund awareness campaigns for dementia and by 2015 the aim is to have at least 20 cities, towns and villages working together as dementia-friendly communities, where local businesses, organisations and individuals come together to support people to live well with dementia, helping them remain independent for longer.
Three champion groups will be convened to bring together the leading organisations and groups with an interest in dementia to support the delivery of the Prime Minister’s challenge. The champion groups will report on progress to Department of Health Ministers who will report to the Prime Minister in September 2012.
“The Prime Minister’s challenge on dementia” has been placed in the Library. Copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office and to noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office.
I will update the House on progress in due course.
Alcohol Guidelines (Science and Technology Committee Report)
Today we have laid before Parliament the Government’s response to the Science and Technology Committee Report on Alcohol Guidelines (Cm 8329). Clear and easily understood information is central to ensuring that everyone is aware of the risks of excessive alcohol consumption and can make informed choices about responsible drinking. The response sets out the Department of Health’s intention to commission a review, led by Dame Sally Davies, as the UK Government’s principal medical adviser to look at the current drinking guidelines, and the evidence base.
Copies of the Government’s response are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office and to noble Lords from the Printed Paper office. It is also available at:
Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 (David Anderson Report)
I am pleased to say that in accordance with sections 14(3), 14(4) and 14(5) of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005, David Anderson QC has completed the report on the operation of the Act in 2011, which will be laid before the House today.
Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures
Section 19(1) of the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act 2011 (the Act) requires the Secretary of State to report to Parliament as soon as reasonably practicable after the end of every relevant three-month period on the exercise of her TPIM powers under the Act during that period.
The level of information provided will always be subject to slight variations based on operational advice.
TPIM notices in force (as of 29 February 2012)
TPIM notices in respect of British citizens (as of 29 February 2012)
TPIM notices imposed (all of the individuals who were subject to a control order at the time the TPIM Act received Royal Assent are now subject to a TPIM notice)
Variations made to measures specified in TPIM notices
Applications to vary measures specified in TPIM notices refused
During the reporting period: no TPIM notices were extended; no TPIM notices were revoked; and no TPIM notices were revived.
A TPIM review group (TRG) has been set up in order to keep every TPIM notice under regular and formal review. The TPIM review group did not meet during this reporting period.
No individuals were charged in relation to an offence under section 23 of the Act (contravening a measure specified in a TPIM notice without reasonable excuse) during the period.
Section 16 of the 2011 Act provides rights of appeal against decisions by the Secretary of State in relation to decisions taken under the Act. No appeals were lodged under section 16 during the reporting period and no judgments have been handed down by the High Court in relation to TPIM cases.
National Policing Improvement Agency
I undertook to update the House on the transfer of the National Policing Improvement Agency’s (NPIA) critical functions to successor bodies.
On 1 April, the Central Witness Bureau, Crime Operational Support Unit, the National Missing Persons Bureau, Serious Crime Analysis Section and Specialist Operations Centre will transfer from the NPIA to the Serious Organised Crime Agency, an important pre-cursor organisation to the National Crime Agency, which will become operational in 2013. These are the first operational areas to move to a successor body; a signal of their national importance in this special year.
Work is continuing on the development of the police professional body and the new police ICT company. I will update the House as plans for these bodies are confirmed.
I envisage that the NPIA functions transferring to the professional body would include, among others: learning, development, strategy and curriculum; authorised professional practice; exams and assessments; the international academy; the National College of Police Leadership; uniformed operational support; some specialist training; and the Criminal Justice and Local Policing Unit. I see the police professional body as being the holder of a body of knowledge for the police service and the transfer of key aspects of the NPIA’s research, analysis and information unit will help to establish this ambition.
Turning to plans for other NPIA functions, I intend:
To transfer to the Home Office responsibility for the NPIA’s Police Science and Forensics services; policy for police special constables; the NPIA’s Automotive Equipment Section; management of the contract for the Airwave radio system and its replacement (including associated staff); some policy responsibility for police work force strategy (though some will also sit with the new professional body and will have an important role to play in relation to the work force); the secretariat for the reducing bureaucracy programme; and the National Police Air Service project team (which will continue to report to Chief Constable Alex Marshall) These functions, together with those I outlined in my written ministerial statement of 15 December 2011, will transfer into the Home Office in autumn 2012.
To transfer to the Home Office, as an interim measure, Hendon data centre services (HDS) in autumn 2012. This temporary move will provide continuity for many of the police service’s critical national identity systems.
To transfer the NPIA’s Proceeds of Crime Centre to the National Crime Agency when it is established in 2013. The NPIA’s statutory powers to train, accredit and monitor financial investigators remain priorities, and, in due course, I intend to bring forward legislation to amend the Proceeds of Crime Act to allow for these responsibilities to be passed to the NCA. In the interim, I will ensure the important work of the centre is preserved until the NCA is fully operational.
For the police professional body, once established, to continue the NPIA’s existing and important relationship with the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism and the Home Office-funded Police National Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) Centre. The Office of Security and Counter-Terrorism will continue to provide management support and oversee the CBRN centre budget after the creation of the new body.
I will continue to update Parliament as we make further decisions on remaining functions, the future of the NPIA estate and the creation of its successor bodies.
Secure Estate for Children and Young People (Response to Consultation)
Today we are publishing our response to the consultation on the “Strategy for the Secure Estate for Children and Young People for England and Wales” alongside plans for the secure estate until 2015.
Both are joint publications between the Ministry of Justice and the Youth Justice Board.
Custody is the appropriate sanction for those young people who commit the most persistent and most serious crimes. Custody is always a last resort but can help young people face up and address their offending behaviour. It is also an opportunity, if properly delivered, to set young people on a more constructive path.
The recent reduction in the number of young people in custody means that the secure estate is now going through a period of change. This has presented us with an opportunity to consider the most appropriate configuration of the estate and consider whether different regimes can deliver improved outcomes.
The response to the consultation and the future plans for the secure estate can be found on the Ministry of Justice website at: www.justice.gov.uk.
Bus Policy, Regulation and Funding
I am today announcing a series of reforms which I propose to make to improve the system of local bus subsidy and regulation in England. These are set out in the paper “Green Light for Better Buses”, copies of which I have placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
I am also pleased to announce today an extra £15 million in funding for increasing the uptake of smart ticketing equipment, particularly among small and medium-sized companies. This makes a total bus funding package of £115 million, if taken alongside last week’s announcement, Official Report, 23 March 2012, column 81WS, on Better Bus Areas (£70 million) and the Green Bus Fund (£31 million). This considerable sum underlines the coalition Government’s firm commitment to investment in transport infrastructure, tackling congestion, and decarbonising transport.
Over the past year, I have been discussing with bus companies, local transport authorities and passenger groups the need for reforms to the bus services operators grant which the Government pay to every company that runs local bus services. The system of subsidy we have inherited is poorly targeted. It does not distinguish between profitable services and those that require local council support. It does not take into account the differing public transport needs of urban and rural areas. And it does little to incentivise fuel-efficient buses.
The proposals I am announcing today have been carefully formulated to attract more people onto buses, to ensure better value for the taxpayer and to give local transport authorities more influence over their local bus networks. They also signal a move to break the link between fuel use and subsidy.
The Government have also responded today to the recommendations from the Competition Commission’s report into the supply of local bus services in the UK (excluding Northern Ireland and London). We have committed to introduce regulatory changes that will remove the barriers facing bus companies that attempt to engage in competition on new bus routes and in new bus markets.
We will also support and guide urban areas in their efforts to introduce new reasonably priced tickets that can be used on any bus, not just on those of a single company. And we will help local councils in their procurement of tendered bus services.
Night Flying Restrictions (Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted)
The current restrictions on night flying at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports were set in 2006 and are due to expire in October 2012.
The Government’s forthcoming aviation policy framework will set out key parameters for aviation, including on noise annoyance to local communities. To ensure our proposals to replace the current night flying regime can take account of the aviation policy framework which the Government have committed to have in place by next spring, and will include the framework for managing noise, we will extend the existing night flying regime at these airports for a period of two years until October 2014. As a first step to replace the current regime in 2014, we will launch a first stage consultation later this year which will seek detailed evidence of the effectiveness of the current regime including costs and benefits and airlines’ fleet replacement plans. This will be followed by a second consultation next year which will enable us to take account of adopted policy when developing our specific proposals.
The Government will take into account the freeze in quota limits during this extension period when setting the next regime and expects airlines to continue to improve their environmental performance in the interim.
Further details of the extension and the timetable for setting a new regime have been published on the Department’s website.
Olympic Penalty Charges
The Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) made proposals to me, following consultation, for the level of penalty charges and associated fees that should apply for civil contraventions of parking and other traffic management measures in traffic regulation orders and notices made for defined games purposes on the Olympic route network (ORN) and elsewhere in England. I am today announcing my decision on these proposals under the provisions of the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006.
The ODA proposed that in most locations the normal level of penalties and fees should apply, and that in all places the normal discounts and surcharges for early and late payment should apply. However, they also proposed that in order to help secure a high level of voluntary compliance with the temporary parking and other traffic management measures essential to the games’ success, increased penalties of £200 should apply on the ORN, and in two of the residents and business parking protection (or “LATM&P”) areas being established around the games venues—around the Olympic park and in the Greenwich river zone. In addition ODA proposed a higher vehicle pound release fee of £300 in the same two areas.
I have decided not to approve higher than normal penalties and fees on the ORN and in these areas, and to require all penalties and fees to be set at normal levels. I endorse the importance of securing a high level of compliance with the temporary traffic management measures, for the benefit of both the games and local residents and businesses. However I am not persuaded that a higher level of penalties and fees is an essential addition to the strategy of communication and advice to residents, businesses and motorists about the measures and their enforcement that is already well under way, supported by plans for effective on-street enforcement activity during the games, including tow-away resources. I consider that increased penalties and fees would be an unnecessary burden in a challenging economic climate when we are already asking businesses and commuters to consider making significant changes to their travel behaviour during the games.
My decision concerns penalties for contraventions of new temporary measures implemented for the games. It is consistent with that taken by the Mayor of London on 15 March not to approve temporary increases in the penalties and fees for contravention of existing measures in traffic regulation orders on the ORN in London and in the same residents and business parking protection areas.
I am placing in the Libraries of both Houses a copy of ODA’s table showing its proposals and the normal penalties and fees applicable in different locations.
Work and Pensions
Social Fund Allocations (2012-13)
I am pleased to announce that the gross discretionary social fund budget for 2012-13 will be £703.4 million.
With the net funding available, I have been able to allocate a gross national social fund loans budget of £561.4 million and a national community care grants budget of £141 million from 1 April 2012.
To provide help to area budgets facing unexpected and unplanned expenditure I will retain centrally £1 million as a contingency reserve.
I will allocate a gross national social fund loans budget in line with the provisions in the Welfare Reform Act 2007. The aim is to control and manage the national allocation while providing consistency of outcomes for budgeting loan applicants wherever they live. All loans budget expenditure will be made from the gross national loans budget of £561.4 million.
Community Care Grants
Following a review in 2011 into the funding allocations methodology, allocations to social fund budget areas have been adjusted to achieve a fairer distribution of the £141 million national budget between areas and to move to the optimal funding position for the new locally based service from 2013.
Details of individual community care grant allocations are contained within an explanatory note that I will place in the House Library today.
Background Note about the Discretionary Social Fund Budget
The discretionary social fund budget is cash-limited. Funding for community care grants is allocated to each budget area for management by social fund benefit delivery centres on 1 April each year. The gross discretionary social fund budget allocated for 2012-13 is £703.4 million. This is made up of:
New money (net AME)
Forecast loan recovery
This is to be allocated as follows:
State Pension Age Changes (Bridging Pensions)
Some defined benefit occupational pension schemes pay members who retire before state pension age a higher pension at the outset, which is then reduced at state pension age to take account of the payment of state pension. This allows a member’s total retirement income to be smoothed over the period of retirement, alleviating possible financial hardship between the date of retirement and the payment of state pension.
These arrangements are often described as bridging pensions, but they are also referred to by other terms, including, integrated pensions, step-up pensions, claw-back pensions and state pension offsets. They can either be part of a scheme’s basic design, or an option offered to members at retirement of either a bridging pension, or a level pension from the outset. Where there is an option the amount payable after age 65 will be lower if a member has opted for a bridging pension, so that the overall cost to the scheme will generally be calculated to be the same whichever option is chosen.
The Government are aware that the changes being introduced to state pension age may have implications for some pension schemes which provide bridging pensions, and individuals who are receiving them. And we recognise that some changes to legislation will be necessary in order to take account of the changes to state pension age. In particular, the Finance Act 2004 places an upper age limit of 65 on the payment of bridging pensions.
At Budget 2012 the Government announced that changes would be made to the Finance Act 2004 to align the bridging pension rules with the state pension age changes.
We recognise that the rules of some schemes providing bridging pensions may specifically refer to the current 65 upper age limit and that in some cases the rules may not provide for their terms to be amended easily, or even at all. They could then be in a position where they are unable to adapt the terms on which their scheme provides bridging pensions in order to take account of changes to state pension age.
I therefore propose to introduce a limited power for the trustees of schemes which currently provide bridging pensions within the terms of the Finance Act to amend their scheme’s rules (if they wish to do so) to take account of later state pension ages. This will allow trustees to adapt the terms of any bridging or integrated pension arrangement offered, but only to the extent that they consider this to be necessary or desirable in order to take account of the changes to state pension age and to the Finance Act. It will not allow them to make wider or more general changes.
Personal Independence Payment
Disability living allowance is being replaced by a new benefit called personal independence payment for people aged 16 to 64.
We will be publishing a formal consultation later today on the detailed benefit rules that will underpin personal independence payment. We are running a full consultation that will run for 14 weeks from 26 March to 30 June 2012.
The consultation also covers the rules governing eligibility and payability of PIP for certain groups. It provides further details on how we will reassess DLA recipients and what the passporting arrangements will be under personal independence payment.
This consultation follows our initial consultation which was held between December 2010 and February 2011 on the reform of DLA, including the high-level structure of the new benefit.
Today’s publication will inform the development process. We welcome views from disabled people and their representative organisations. We will actively engage with these groups throughout the consultation period to ensure we get the detailed design right.
I will place a copy of the formal consultation in the Library.
Workplace Pension Reform
I am pleased to announce that today I will be laying one of the final building blocks to enable the start of automatic enrolment from later this year—the draft Automatic Enrolment (Earnings Trigger and Qualifying Earnings Band) Order 2012.
Alongside this draft order I will be placing a copy of the Government’s response to the consultation on the 2012-2013 review and revision of earning thresholds for automatic enrolment in the House Library. Following the commitment made to the House by my noble Friend Lord Freud, the Minister with responsibility for welfare reform, during the passage of the Pensions Act 2011 this response includes an analysis of the impact of the revised thresholds.
I would like to thank the pensions community for their input to this work. This collaboration needs to continue if we are to make automatic enrolment a success.
These papers will be available later today on the Department’s website: