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Written Statements

Volume 558: debated on Monday 11 February 2013

Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 11 February 2013

Business, Innovation and Skills

Regional Growth Fund (Update)

In my written ministerial statement of 17 January 2013, Official Report, column 41WS, I announced that Ministers reserve the option to award Regional Growth Fund (RGF) support flexibly. This allows us to respond quickly to specific economic opportunities or shocks in order to ensure that we do everything that we can to maximise growth in the most vulnerable parts of the country. This will be in exceptional circumstances only and will take place outside the normal bidding process, although detailed due diligence requirements will still need to be met.

Part of the Government role in their commitment to growth is to discuss investment opportunities with private sector organisations and local bodies. Where a proposal for securing investment, and associated employment opportunities aligns with the principles of the RGF and there is no routine chance to bid—either because no bidding round is open or because an investment decision is needed imminently—RGF support can and should be possible, to realise those growth opportunities.

Exceptional RGF (eRGF) will therefore be considered by Ministers as a way to support credible proposals for growth by allowing RGF money to be awarded at any appropriate time. In this way, we continue in our aim to rebalance the economy and support business growth.

One of the strengths of the RGF to date has been its competitive nature. In the absence of an open competition, eRGF cases will be benchmarked against similar bids from previous rounds to assess their relative value for money. In each case Ministers will also seek independent advice before approving eRGF support.

Exceptional RGF funds will be met from existing budgets by recycling money from previous RGF rounds where bidders have withdrawn or reduced their grant amount. In this way, we ensure that RGF funds continue to be spent on RGF objectives, to enable investment, support growth and create jobs.

As with RGF, those organisations that are awarded eRGF support will be published on the Government website (https://www.gov.uk/understanding-the-regional-growth-fund) where further information on eRGF is also now available.

Withdrawn projects

A number of bidders have withdrawn since I last published the list in September. The withdrawal of a small proportion of bids is to be expected given the robustness of the contracting process.

Bidders may withdraw a project or programme for any reason. Commonly these include global market conditions; realisation through the due diligence process that the project could not be supported (including on state aid grounds); and changes in senior management or parent company strategy.

The up to date list of withdrawn bids is below.

No.

Name of Beneficiary

No.

Name of Beneficiary

1

A&P Tyne Ltd 247C

24

Messier-Dowty Ltd

2

Ames Goldsmith UK Ltd

25

Nissan UK P3

3

BRM Packaging Ltd

26

Northern Tissue Group Ltd

4

C&C Baseline Ltd

27

PD Teesport

5

Caparo Precision Strip

28

Pilkington United Kingdom Ltd

6

Carlton & Co

29

PMT Industries Ltd

7

1CE3 - Conitech

30

Rapsican Systems

8

CE4 - Verta Energy

31

SCM Pharma Ltd

9

Cleveland Potash Ltd

32

Shepherd Offshore Ltd

10

2CTS - Exhausto Ltd

33

Sirius Minerals

11

CT7 - Aggregate Industries Ltd

34

St Modwen Properties

12

CT8-W.D. Irwin & Sons

35

Stainless Plating Ltd

13

CT9 - Aria

36

Sunsolar Ltd

14

Cumbrian Holdings

37

T&N Plastics

15

Diodes Zetex Semiconductors Ltd

38

Tameside/Monopumps

16

Disley Tissues Ltd

39

Thales Properties Ltd (Leicester)

17

Federal-Mogul Friction Product

40

The Listen Media Company Ltd

18

Heerema Hartlepool Ltd

41

Treves UK Ltd.

19

Huntsman Polyurethanes (UK) Ltd

42

Turner Powertrain Systems Ltd

20

ING Lease UK Ltd

43

Universal Engineering

21

I-Plas Products Ltd

44

Vestas Technology UK Ltd

22

J & B Recycling Ltd

45

Zegen (Wilton) Ltd

23

Marlow Foods Ltd

1 CE is the Chirton Engineering package of projects.

2 CT is the Carbon Trust package of projects.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Horsemeat and Contaminated Food

Investigations are currently going on into a number of incidents of processed beef products containing undeclared horsemeat. These investigations are being led by the independent Food Standards Agency in liaison with authorities in other European countries and the police. The Food Standards Agency has assured me that it currently has no evidence to suggest that the products in question represent a food safety risk.

Food fraud is completely unacceptable. Consumers need to be confident that food is what it says on the label. It is outrageous that consumers have been buying products labelled beef, but which turn out to be horse. I am determined that we get to the bottom of this and that any wrongdoing is prosecuted.

I met major retailers, manufacturers and distributors on 9 February to agree a clear plan of action to deal with this problem. Producers and retailers are testing their processed beef products for the presence of horsemeat and I made it clear I expected to see meaningful results from this testing by the end of this week. We also agreed that more testing of products for horse needs to be done along the supply chain.

Consumers can be confident that we will establish how this has happened and will take whatever action is necessary to ensure the integrity of the food chain in this country.

I will be making an oral statement to the House on these issues later today.

Scotland

Scotland in the UK

The Government have published the first paper in the Scotland analysis programme series to inform the debate on Scotland’s future within the United Kingdom.

“Devolution and the Implications of Scottish Independence” covers the benefits of devolution and the legal consequences of establishing an independent Scottish state.

Alongside this paper the Government have published an independent expert legal opinion from leading experts on international law. The opinion concludes that, in the event of a vote for independence, Scotland would become a “successor state”. It would therefore be required to create a new set of domestic and international arrangements. The remainder of the United Kingdom would be the “continuator state” and would not have to negotiate new treaties or memberships of international organisations because, as the continuing state, the remainder of the UK would be largely unaffected under international law.

Negotiations would need to take place with the UK Government on any requests to retain UK-wide arrangements on matters such as a currency union, financial regulation and national security. An independent Scottish state would also need to negotiate with the European Union and other international organisations to agree new terms and conditions of membership.

Future papers from the Scotland analysis programme will be published over the course of 2013 and 2014 to ensure that people in Scotland have access to the facts that will help inform them ahead of the referendum.

Transport

Road Network (Economic Growth)

This statement is to inform the House that I am today publishing a consultation on revised policy setting out the role of the strategic road network in enabling economic growth.

The new policy will replace circular 02/2007 planning and the strategic road network, and DFT circular 01/2008 policy on service areas and other roadside facilities on motorways and all-purpose trunk roads in England.

We are consulting on changes that will mean in some cases constraints are removed from local authorities and other local decision makers, when considering proposals for new developments.

In reducing regulation, the updated policy will encourage growth by making it easier for businesses and communities to develop, while at the same time ensuring that the road network continues to operate efficiently.

Work and Pensions

Social Fund Schemes

I am pleased to announce that later today we intend to lay regulations to include universal credit in the list of qualifying benefits that currently act as an initial gateway to the three regulated social fund schemes (i.e. the Sure Start maternity grants, funeral payments and cold weather payments). The other qualifying criteria that also apply to these schemes will continue as now with some modifications being made to the cold weather payment scheme.

As universal credit is both an in and out of work benefit and does not exactly mirror the existing income-related benefits, the cold weather payment scheme has had to be modified. In addition, to ensure that the underlying principles behind the scheme continue to apply—that additional support is given to help the most vulnerable with the extra costs associated with heating the home during severe weather periods—a further qualifying criterion has been introduced for recipients of universal credit, which restricts access to those not in employment. An exception to this criterion has been made for families with a disabled child or children.

Two further changes have been made to the funeral payment scheme. The first relates to the introduction of universal credit. Because elements for housing benefit will be included in the universal credit assessment and payments will be made monthly, changes must be made to prevent any final benefit arrears owing to the deceased from extinguishing an award being made to the person taking responsibility for the funeral. The second change removes council tax benefit from the list of qualifying benefits that currently act as an initial gateway to the scheme following the decision to abolish council tax benefit from 1 April 2013 in favour of localised provision.

With the exception of the cold weather payment scheme, all the changes are due to come into effect from 1 April 2013 to ensure the changes are in place for the commencement of the universal credit pathfinder. The changes relating to cold weather payments will come into effect from the start of the winter season 1 November 2013.