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Written Statements

Volume 547: debated on Thursday 28 June 2012

Written Ministerial Statements

Thursday 28 June 2012

Business, Innovation and Skills

Industrial Development Act 1982

I would like to inform the House that the Government are today publishing a response to the consultation on modernising the Industrial Development Act 1982 (IDA). This confirms the Government intention to remove the automatic 100% assisted area status of Northern Ireland and to make a number of more technical revisions to update the IDA.

A revised IDA, updated to reflect current economic realities, will provide maximum flexibility for addressing economic disparities across the whole of the United Kingdom when drawing up the assisted areas map for 2014-20 and when offering aid.

Removing Northern Ireland’s automatic assisted area status will not in itself mean Northern Ireland losing its 100% coverage under the Commission’s regional aid guidelines and new assisted areas map for 2014-20. The UK Government will work with the Northern Ireland Executive to get the best outcome from the European level discussions and there will be further consultation on the new UK assisted area map.

A copy of the response document will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses and is available electronically on the BIS website:

http://www.bis.gov.uk/Consultations/revision-of-industrial-development-act-1982

Treasury

VAT (Anomalies)

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is today publishing its summary of responses to the consultation “VAT: Addressing Borderline Anomalies”. The consultation, launched on 21 March 2012, closed on 18 May 2012 and nearly 1,500 responses were received. The Government have set out some amendments to the initial proposals and further details are contained within the response document.

The changes to the VAT rules will be enacted through a new schedule to be introduced at the Report stage of the Finance Bill.

The summary of responses document is available on HMRC’s website and copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Defence

Reserves (Call-Out Order)

With the expiry of the call-out order made on 1 May 2011, a new order has been made under section 56(1 )(a) of the Reserve Forces Act 1996 to enable reservists to continue to be called out into permanent service as part of the United Kingdom’s contribution to the United Nations Forces in Cyprus (UNFICYP).

The new order is effective until 28 June 2013. Some 54 reservists are currently called out in support of UNFICYP. All 54 are serving in Cyprus.

National Employer Advisory Board

In accordance with the Cabinet Office’s guidance on public bodies, a review of the National Employer Advisory Board (NEAB) has been commissioned and work will commence in July 2012.

NEAB is an advisory non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Ministry of Defence (MOD), which provides informed but independent advice to Ministers and the MOD about how it can most effectively gain and maintain the support of the employers of Britain’s reserve forces. The review will consider the effectiveness of how the functions of the NEAB are currently delivered, whether there is a need for the function and for the advisory NDPB to continue, and if so, how the function might best be delivered in future.

The review is due to be completed later this year and I shall inform the House of its outcome.

Education

Education Reform

I am today announcing the final arrangements for funding schools from 2013-14. This provides a vital step towards a national funding formula, which will create a funding system that is fair, logical and distributes extra funding towards pupils who need it the most.

We inherited a situation where there was inequality in the funding of schools, with similar schools or pupils in different locations attracting different levels of funding. I am determined to end this inequality and to create a fair and transparent system of funding for schools.

In March, I announced my intention to introduce a new national funding formula for schools during the next spending review period. This will ensure that similar pupils, no matter where they go to school in the country, attract similar levels of funding. To pave the way for this broader reform, I set out my intention to simplify the local funding arrangements for 2013-14 and consulted on some of those arrangements. I also announced a new approach to high needs funding that will help to improve transparency, quality and choice for young people and their families.

Following that consultation, I am today publishing a document—“School Funding Reform: Arrangements for 2013-14”—which confirms my final decisions. Copies of this document will be placed in the House Libraries. These new arrangements will move us towards a funding system which promotes choice and raises quality.

The announcement today provides the detail necessary to enable school budgets to be determined on a clearer and more transparent basis. It is a significant part in our continuing reform of the way schools are funded and will help us achieve our objective of raising the aspirations and attainment of all pupils.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Afghanistan

I wish to inform the House that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, together with the Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Development, is today publishing the 18th progress report on developments in Afghanistan since November 2010.

At the NATO summit in Chicago on 20 and 21 May, the international community demonstrated its enduring support to Afghanistan beyond the end of security transition. International security assistance force (ISAF) partners delivered on the commitments made at the Bonn conference with credible financial contributions to sustain the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) beyond the withdrawal of ISAF troops. They also agreed NATO’s long-term role in Afghanistan up to and beyond 2014. The summit sent a clear message to the Afghan people that we will not abandon them. It also sent a clear message to the insurgency that they cannot wait us out. The summit communiqué reaffirmed NATO’s commitment to full implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on women, peace and security. It also endorsed a strategic progress report to make UNSCR 1325 an integral part of NATO-led operations and missions.

At Chicago, partners also noted the progress in security transition and welcomed the recent announcement of tranche three in May. They looked ahead to the mid-2013 milestone, the point at which the fifth and final tranche is expected to begin and the ANSF will take on lead security responsibility across the country. When transition completes at the end of 2014, the ANSF will have full security responsibility and ISAF will move away from a combat role.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development will attend the Tokyo conference on 8 July. It is vital for the Tokyo conference to deliver much-needed aid commitments. This will complement the security commitments made at Chicago, to ensure Afghanistan continues to develop long after international troops have departed.

We encourage all international partners to commit at Tokyo to stand by Afghanistan for the long-term and provide concrete aid pledges for at least the period up to 2017. The Afghan Government will have to demonstrate clearly that they are serious about fighting corruption and making key policy reforms, to persuade the international community to continue to provide assistance.

On 13 May, the Afghan Government announced the third tranche of areas to enter transition. Once tranche three begins, 75% of the Afghan population will be living in areas where ANSF have lead security responsibility. Tranche three, which includes a number of challenging areas, will include Nahr-e Saraj, the third and final area within the UK’s area of operation to begin transition. Lashkar Gah and Nad-e-Ali entered transition in tranches one and two respectively. Transition in these tranches has progressed well, with ANSF capability continuing to improve. The process remains on track for transition to complete in all areas of the country by the end of 2014.

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).

Overseas Territories

Today I am publishing the Government’s White Paper on the “Overseas Territories: Security, Success and Sustainability”. This is the first review of the overseas territories since 1999 and it is the culmination of two years work and consultation.

We came to Government determined to renew and strengthen relationships with the overseas territories.

Our historical links go back more than four centuries. The territories comprise a quarter of a million people and 90% of the biodiversity of the UK and territories combined. They are valued constituent parts of the realm and we have a responsibility to ensure their security and good governance. We also want them to be vibrant and flourishing communities that proudly retain aspects of their British identity. This means upholding their rights of self-determination, helping them become economically independent and able to generate opportunities for their people, and protecting their extraordinary environmental heritage.

The Government take these responsibilities very seriously.

The White Paper has been developed across Government Departments and in consultation with the people and Governments of the territories. It sends an important signal of long-term commitment and engagement. It focuses on three goals and practical measures to achieve them.

First, it seeks to strengthen engagement between the United Kingdom and the territories. We want to deepen our co-operation and share expertise more widely. At a Government level, for the first time all Departments have agreed that they will take a lead in engaging with the territories in their respective areas of competence. Each has written its own paper on its work with the territories. We are launching a jubilee programme to support the exchange of expertise between public servants in the territories and the UK. We also want to build stronger links at political level. We are determined that the agenda set out in the White Paper will be driven forward by the UK and territory leaders together through a joint ministerial Council. This strategy goes beyond Government. It seeks to foster partnerships between the UK and the territories in the private sector, professional bodies and civil society.

Our second goal is to help the territories to improve governance, financial management and economic planning, where this is necessary.

We appreciate the remarkable diversity of the territories, each with their own specific attributes, opportunities and needs. In these times of global economic difficulty we all face common challenges: building more diverse and resilient economies, cutting public sector deficits, regulating business effectively, ensuring the sustainability of natural resources and protecting the environment. There are certain standards which we must all uphold, in particular in maintaining the rule of law and integrity in public life, building strong and successful communities and respecting human rights. This Government are determined to help the territories run themselves effectively, not to run them themselves, the territories have made considerable strides in their economic development. We are determined to support them and to ensure that those territories that still need assistance will remain a first call on Britain’s international development budget. We expect these territories to do all that is necessary to reduce over time their reliance on subsidies from the British taxpayer; and we expect all territory Governments to manage their public finances sustainably.

The third goal of our strategy is to improve the quality and range of support available to the territories. The Government are willing to make investments that will promote growth and economic independence in the aided territories. For example, the Department for International Development is spending up to £247 million on a project to construct an airport on St Helena. This will be a significant step on the path to self-sufficiency and will help the island to reduce its dependence on UK aid in the future.

We also want to help the territories build productive links with other countries and international organisations, particularly to make good use of support from the European Union and the Commonwealth. We will support this using the FCO’s overseas networks and relationships.

This year, we have celebrated a number of important landmarks relating to the territories. In January, we marked the centenary of Scott’s heroic journey to the south pole. Earlier this month, we welcomed territory leaders to Britain to celebrate the diamond jubilee. Two weeks ago, we commemorated the 30th anniversary of the end of the Falklands conflict in which British soldiers gave their lives to protect the Falkland Islanders’ right of self-determination. This White Paper is another major milestone—one that marks a new era of positive engagement between Britain and the overseas territories.

Health

Care Quality Commission Market Report

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has today published its first quarterly report on the provision of health and adult social care in England, “Market Report Issue 1: 2012”.

The market reports are designed by the CQC to:

provide an update on compliance in each of the sectors that CQC regulates on a quarterly basis;

identify themes and trends in each sector’s performance;

flag issues of non-compliance to providers and other bodies who have responsibility for the health and adult social care system; and

demonstrate the volume and effectiveness of CQC’s inspection and enforcement action.

The report published today presents the results of inspections of more than 14,000 services, between June 2011 and 31 March 2012, across all the sectors that CQC currently regulates: healthcare, adult social care and dental care. This and future reports will provide a snapshot of the compliance of providers against the essential safety and quality requirements.

This report also includes a special feature on maternity services and focuses on midwife staffing numbers. The Department of Health is moving toward a workforce where the focus will be increasingly on supporting the whole maternity team to make the best use of their contributions by using innovation and new technology to drive up the quality of care and deliver value for money.

The Centre for Workforce Intelligence has been asked by the Department of Health to undertake an in-depth study of the nursing and maternity workforce. The final report will be published in summer 2012.

“Market Report Issue I: 2012” 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.

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority/Human Tissue Authority (Transfer of Functions)

The Department of Health is publishing a “Consultation on proposals to transfer functions from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and the Human Tissue Authority” today.

In “Liberating the NHS: Report of the arm’s length bodies review (2010)” the Department of Health set out its proposals for reducing bureaucracy and increasing efficiencies. This included transferring all functions from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and the Human Tissue Authority with a view to abolishing the two organisations by 2015. This consultation sets out options for taking this work forward. We welcome views and will use these to inform our thinking.

A copy of the “Consultation on proposals to transfer functions from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and the Human Tissue Authority” 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.

Justice

Data Protection

My noble Friend the Minster of State, Ministry of Justice, Lord McNally, has made the following written ministerial statement:

Today, I will publish the Government’s summary of responses to their call for evidence on the European Commission’s new proposals for data protection.

On 25 January 2012, the European Commission published a draft data protection directive (covering the police and judicial sector) and a draft data protection regulation (mainly impacting on individuals, business, the public sector and charities). The Government’s call for evidence, which was launched on 7 February and concluded on 6 March 2012 sought evidence on the potential impact on the UK of both the proposed regulation and the proposed directive.

Some143 responses were received from across the public, private and third sectors, consumer groups and members of the public. In addition to inviting written responses to the call for evidence, officials from the Ministry of Justice took part in a series of bilateral discussions and roundtables to hear views from industry and rights groups.

Broadly, respondents to the call for evidence welcomed the opportunity for a revision of the current data protection framework. Rights groups and members of the general public welcomed the strengthening of individuals’ rights and greater transparency in the processing of personal data. However, businesses and some public sector organisations expressed their concerns about the additional burdens and unintended consequence stemming from the proposed regulation. The evidence received will help to inform the UK’s position for the ongoing negotiations of the EU data protection instruments.

At the same time as publishing this summary of responses, the Government will publish their impacts checklist of the proposed data protection instruments. Primarily, the checklists aim to assess the costs and benefits the proposed instruments could generate.

Negotiations are expected to continue at EU level until 2014, when the Government’s aim is to secure a data protection framework that is proportionate, and that minimises the burdens on businesses and other organisations, while giving individuals real protection in how their personal data are processed.

Copies of the summary of responses to the call for evidence and the impacts checklists will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses and on the Department’s website at: www.justice.gov.uk.

Work and Pensions

Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council

The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council met on 21 June 2012 in Luxembourg. I represented the United Kingdom.

The main discussion was a policy debate on the Europe 2020 strategy: contribution to the European Council (28 and 29 June 2012)—European semester. The presidency stated that it was vitally important for Europe to take ambitious reform measures and the Commission stressed the greater need for economic integration in Europe. I intervened to state that country specific recommendations (CSRs) were a key tool and needed to be ambitious and challenging but that they needed to be fully supported by evidence and be relevant to individual member states. I further stressed that the process for agreeing CSRs needed improvement and in particular, the Commission should show greater willingness to listen and accept changes where duly justified and supported by evidence.

There were progress reports on four topics; legislative initiatives for posting of workers; minimum health and safety requirements regarding the exposure of workers to the risks arising from physical agents (electromagnetic fields); the principle of equal treatment of persons irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation; and the European globalisation adjustment fund (EGF) (2014-20). On EGF, there was support from some member states to continue the fund in the next programming period while other disagreed. I intervened to state that the fund should be discontinued.

In addition, Ministers adopted two sets of Council conclusions, covering responding to the demographic challenges through enhanced participation in labour market and society by all, and gender equality and the environment: enhanced decision making, qualifications and competitiveness in the field of climate change mitigation policy in the EU.

Ministers reached a partial general approach on the programme for social change and innovation (PSCI) excluding the programme budget. I supported this, while tabling a minute statement stressing that, as the Danish presidency has made clear, progress in negotiating individual sectoral regulations should not prejudice the outcome of the overall multiannual financial framework discussion. Ministers also endorsed the main messages from the Social Protection Committee’s report on pensions’ adequacy.

Under any other business, the Commission provided information on national Roma integration strategies and the ratification and implementation of the UN convention on the rights of people with disabilities. The presidency provided information on conferences held during the Danish presidency. The Commission and presidency both reported on the G20 meeting of Labour and Employment Ministers, and finally, the Cypriot delegation outlined the work programme of their forthcoming presidency.

Right to Control (Pilot Scheme)

The current Right to Control pilot scheme is implemented by regulations which expire on 13 December 2012. The Government believe that the best way to get more evidence about the delivery of Right to Control is to extend the current pilot scheme for a further 12 months beyond December 2012. Accordingly, the Government are proposing to put in place that extension.

Later today the Department will launch a public consultation in which it asks for views about its proposed extension of the pilot scheme.

In line with requirements under part 2 of the Welfare Reform Act 2009 the Department will publish, for comment, draft regulations to enable the extension of the pilot scheme. Pending the results of the consultation it is our intention to lay the draft regulations before Parliament for approval in the autumn.

The consultation document, which includes the draft regulations, will be published later today on the Department for Work and Pensions website with details of the consultation process. I will also place a copy of the consultation document in the House Library later today.