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Written Statements

Volume 565: debated on Thursday 27 June 2013

Written Statements

Thursday 27 June 2013

Business, Innovation and Skills

ERDF/ESF 2014-20

I am today confirming how the €6.2 billion England allocation of the European regional development fund (ERDF) and the European social fund (ESF) will be allocated.

The European regional development fund, the European social fund and part of the European agricultural fund for rural development (EAFRD) will be allocated to local enterprise partnerships (LEP) areas for a full seven-year period through a new decentralised EU growth programme.

The Government have given a commitment that the growth programme funds will be allocated to local enterprise partnership (LEP) areas as an important new source of finance to stimulate local growth and jobs. This marks a significant shift from previous European programmes which were substantially centralised with limited local involvement in many key areas. Under this new model, decision-making powers will be transferred from Whitehall to local areas. LEPs and local partners will be in charge of European funds that will provide significant investment in innovation, business, skills and employment in a common agenda for growth and jobs that will integrate effectively with wider LEP strategic plans.

In February, the Prime Minister negotiated a real-terms cut in the EU budget for the first time in history. As the independent Office for Budget Responsibility has said, the effect of this deal was to reduce its forecast for what taxpayers across all parts of the UK will pay by £3.5 billion over the next five years.

The Government have set allocations that deliver the fairest split of funding across England, as far as EU rules allow. Allocations by LEP area for ERDF and ESF are set out in the annex. Allocations for the part of EAFRD being channelled through the growth programme will be published at a later date by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Gibraltar’s current allocation will be frozen at €9 million and will be taken from the England allocation for “more developed” regions (Gibraltar is counted in this category).

The Government have today also confirmed the detailed allocations for the highlands and islands region in Scotland as €172 million and the allocation for west Wales as €1,783 million and for east Wales as €361 million.

All allocations are subject to final agreement on the EU regulations and the EU 2014-20 budget in the European Parliament. The European Commission will also need to agree the UK Government’s specific proposals.

LEP Allocations for ERDF and ESF 2014-20

LEP

Allocation €m1

Black Country

177.4

Buckinghamshire Thames Valley

13.9

Cheshire and Warrington

142.2

Coast to Capital

67.3

Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly

592.9

Coventry and Warwickshire

136.0

Cumbria

91.4

Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire

249.7

Dorset

47.3

Enterprise M3

45.7

Gloucestershire

38.3

Greater Birmingham and Solihull

255.8

Greater Cambridge & Greater Peterborough

75.5

Greater Lincolnshire

133.5

Greater Manchester

415.6

Heart of the South West

118.3

Hertfordshire

69.5

Humber

102.4

Lancashire

266.3

Leeds City Region

391.2

Leicester and Leicestershire

126.3

Liverpool City Region

221.9

London

748.6

New Anglia

94.5

North Eastern

539.6

Northamptonshire

55.0

Oxfordshire LEP

19.4

Sheffield City Region

203.4

Solent

43.1

South East

185.9

South East Midlands

88.3

Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire

161.6

Swindon and Wiltshire

43.6

Tees Valley

202.6

Thames Valley Berkshire

28.7

The Marches

113.7

West of England

68.6

Worcestershire

68.1

York and North Yorkshire

97.5

National Minimum Wage

The Government have today written to the Low Pay Commission setting out the remit for its 2014 report.

The Government support the national minimum wage (NMW) because of the protection it provides to low-paid workers and the incentives to work it provides. Our aim is to have NMW rates that help as many low-paid workers as possible, while making sure that we do not damage their employment prospects.

The Low Pay Commission (LPC) is asked to:

Monitor, evaluate and review the levels of each of the different NMW rates and make recommendations on the levels it believes should apply from October 2014.

Review the contribution the NMW could make to the employment prospects of young people.

In making recommendations in the areas set out above, the Low Pay Commission is asked to take account of the state of the economy, and employment and unemployment levels.

Timing

In addition, the LPC is asked to report to the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, and the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills by end February 2014.

Copies of the remit have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Treasury

Welsh Funding

As agreed by the terms of the October 2012 joint statement on funding reform, the Welsh Government and UK Government completed a joint review of the pattern of convergence in Welsh relative funding in advance of the 2015-16 spending round.

In the run up to the spending round, Welsh Government and Treasury officials tested alternative spending scenarios for 2015-16 which were then assessed for their impact on Welsh relative funding levels. Based on this analysis, both Governments were able to conclude that no convergence is forecast during the 2015-16 spending period. That conclusion was formally recorded in an exchange of letters, between the Welsh Finance Minister and me, that took place ahead of the spending round announcement.

Following the spending round announcement yesterday, I am now able to confirm the relative funding trend for Wales up to 2015-16. There will be a small degree of divergence in Welsh relative funding during 2015-16 as shown in the table below:

Wales Relative Funding (England = 100)

2011-12

2012-13

2013-14

2014-15

2015-16

115.0

114.6

115.1

115.5

115.8

This work was taken forward collaboratively with the Welsh Government and is a good example of the two Governments working together for the benefit of Wales and the rest of the UK. The review process will be repeated ahead of the next formal spending review and I look forward to continuing to work closely with the Welsh Government on this process in the future.

Education

School Teachers' Review Body (22nd Report)

The “22nd Report of the School Teachers’ Review Body” (STRB) is being published today. The report contains recommendations on how to apply the pay award that is due to be implemented from September 2013.

I am grateful for the careful consideration which the STRB has given to this important matter. Copies of the STRB’s 22nd Report have been laid before Parliament today and are available in the Vote Office, the Printed Paper Office and the Libraries of both Houses, and online at: www.education.gov.uk and www.ome.uk.com.

The STRB has recommended that a 1% pay award should be applied equally to all salaries and allowances in payment, and to all points on the pay scales contained in the School Teachers Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD). This includes an increase of 1% from September 2013 in the values of:

All points on the unqualified, main and upper pay scales for classroom teachers;

The minimum and maximum of the pay range for leading practitioners and all pay ranges for individual posts set before taking account of the September 2013 uplift;

All points on the leadership pay spine;

Any individual allowances in payment and to the minima and the maxima of the ranges for all teacher allowances.

I am grateful to the STRB for these recommendations and, subject to the views of consultees, I intend to accept them in full.

My officials will shortly write to all of the statutory consultees of the STRB to invite them to contribute to a consultation on my acceptance of these recommendations, and on the text of the 2013 STPCD. The consultation will last for four weeks.

Energy and Climate Change

Electricity Market Reform

The Government are making a range of key announcements today in relation to reform of the electricity market. Electricity market reform (EMR) is a central component of the Energy Bill currently being considered by Parliament, and will address the need to attract unprecedented levels of investment in the UK electricity sector over the coming decades as we replace our ageing energy infrastructure with a diverse mix of low-carbon generation, and meet the expected increases in electricity demand as sectors such as transport and heat are electrified.

The Energy Bill includes clauses to introduce contracts for difference, to support investment in low-carbon generation, and a capacity market, to ensure security of supply.

Contracts for Difference (CfDs)

CfDs form a core component of the Government’s strategy to bring forward investment in affordable low-carbon electricity generation—including renewables, carbon capture and storage and new nuclear. CfDs provide efficient and long-term support for low-carbon generation, reducing risks faced by generators by increasing revenue certainty and through the backing of a long-term contract. Generators are paid the difference between the market price and a “strike price”, but when the market price is high the generator must pay back the difference, which reduces costs to consumers when electricity prices are high. The Government are announcing today alongside the spending review draft CfD strike prices for renewables technologies, decisions on key CfD terms, and the levy control framework (LCF) profile to 2020-21. I am laying before Parliament our policy document “Electricity Market Reform—Delivering UK Investment”.

The aim of these announcements is to give investors early sight of the principal contract parameters, including terms and draft strike prices. We intend to publish further detail (including supporting methodology and analysis, a draft capacity market reliability standard, and a forward look to 2030) in the draft delivery plan for EMR in July. We will publish detailed drafting of key CfD contract terms in early August.

The paper will be available at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/electricity-market-reform-delivering-uk-investment.

The Capacity Market

A key part of the challenge our market faces is in ensuring secure electricity supplies. In addition to the closure of ageing plant and increasing demand, the UK is seeking to decarbonise its electricity supply in order to meet our carbon reduction targets. These changes create an investment challenge, for some forms of capacity such as gas generation. The Government are taking clear action to address this by legislating to introduce the capacity market. The capacity market will give investors the certainty they need to put adequate reliable capacity in place and by protecting consumers against the risk of supply shortages. It does this by providing a predictable revenue stream to providers of reliable capacity, including both generation and non-generation measures such as demand-side-response and storage. In return, they must commit to provide capacity when needed or face financial penalties.

Government have confirmed today they intend to run the first capacity market auction in late 2014, for delivery in 2018-19—subject to state-aid clearance. In addition, I am laying before Parliament our proposal document “Electricity Market Reform: Capacity Market—Detailed Design Proposals”.

The detailed design proposals published today have been developed following discussion with stakeholders, and provide further detail on all elements of capacity market design. By publishing this detail now Government are seeking to give investors the information and time they need to start preparing for the capacity market.

We intend to consult in October on these proposals and draft secondary legislation to implement them. Secondary legislation will be subject to Parliamentary scrutiny in 2014 and it is expected to enter into force in July 2014.

Ofgem has also today published its 2013 capacity assessment—this shows de-rated capacity margins decreasing faster in the next few years than in Ofgem’s 2012 assessment. In response, Ofgem has published a letter seeking stakeholders’ views on the rationale for, and principle of, National Grid Electricity Transmission plc (NGET) procuring new balancing services to support electricity security of supply during this period. The Government, Ofgem and National Grid have a shared view of the risks and the suitability of the solutions being proposed for both the short and medium-term.

The paper will be available at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/electricity-market-reform-capacity-market-proposals.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Flood Insurance

The current voluntary agreement on flood insurance between Government and the insurance industry, termed the statement of principles, ends shortly. Without new arrangements, there is concern that households at flood risk will not have access to the affordable insurance cover they need.

Flood insurance is a complex problem. Ministers have consistently said that the aim is to find a solution which secures the availability of affordable flood insurance for households at risk of flooding without placing unsustainable costs on wider policyholders and the taxpayer. Our preference is to work in partnership with the insurance industry to deliver this.

This Government have therefore been working hard to develop a new approach with the Association of British Insurers (ABI) that promises to allow affordable flood insurance to continue to be available. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Minister for Government Policy who has led these discussions on behalf of the Government.

I am today launching a public consultation on how we intend to move forward. We will seek the necessary powers to take action in the Water Bill, also published today.

Following extensive discussions with the Association of British Insurers, we have established the principles for a new flood insurance solution based on their “Flood Re” proposal. I will arrange for copies of the memorandum of understanding we have reached with the ABI to be placed in the Library of the House along with the consultation document.

Flood Re promises to effectively limit the most that hundreds of thousands of UK households should have to pay for flood insurance. We anticipate that up to 500,000 high-risk households could benefit from Flood Re, and pay significantly less for their insurance than they might otherwise. Customers would be free to shop around to get the best overall deal from an insurer of their choice as well as limiting the potential for price rises, with some customers seeing prices fall. Flood Re would also constrain the excesses that could be imposed on households at high flood risk.

The benefits of Flood Re would be targeted towards those who need it most, helping those who are particularly hard-pressed with the cost of living. Furthermore, the ABI has assured Ministers that its proposal can be introduced without impacting customer bills in general. An internal industry levy would fund Flood Re, capturing the existing cross-subsidy in the market. Flood Re would operate as a not-for-profit reinsurance scheme managed by the insurance industry itself. There will be no contingent liability for the Government or the taxpayer from the Flood Re scheme.

Flood Re would be a novel approach and there remain many details to work through with the industry, including the relationship between Flood Re and Parliament. Our broad intention is that Flood Re, rather than Ministers, would be directly accountable to Parliament for its ongoing operations. Ministers would of course remain accountable to Parliament for overall policy on flood insurance. While novel, these arrangements are intended to strike a balance between the full requirements of accountability to Parliament and the need for Flood Re to operate as an integral part of the insurance market. I am writing with further details on this point to the chairs of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Treasury, and Public Accounts Committees. Due to the statutory nature of the levy, Flood Re is also likely to be classed as state aid and so would need to be approved by the European Commission.

While it is our preference to work with the industry towards Flood Re there are therefore still significant issues to be overcome, many outside of the Government’s control. Households deserve to have confidence that this issue will be addressed one way or another. Because of the remaining uncertainties around Flood Re, the Government will also seek powers in the Water Bill to regulate for affordable flood insurance. This approach would be pursued if Flood Re would not or does not deliver what we need, and insurers are otherwise unable to keep prices at affordable levels. If introduced, the fall-back regulatory approach would place an obligation on each insurer to take their share of high flood risk households, or face penalties. This flood insurance obligation would have the objective of sustaining the existing market for high-risk households at affordable prices.

This Government do not intervene in markets unnecessarily, and whichever approach is finally pursued it would only operate for a limited time, and would be withdrawn within 20 to 25 years. In the long term we need to create a situation where everyone is fully aware of their level of flood risk, and households and communities are rewarded through their future bills for the steps they take to reduce flood risk.

We are seeking views on this as the way forward through a six-week public consultation. The Water Bill being published today will contain a placeholder clause on flood insurance. Following public consultation I intend to announce final proposals and introduce updated clauses to the Water Bill by Government amendment later this year.

The best way of securing affordable insurance in the long term is and will always be to reduce the chance of flooding in the first place. Investing in flood risk management remains at the top of the Government’s priorities. The Government also provide a range of further support for households to reduce their risk of flooding and find affordable insurance, for instance by signing up to free flood warnings, and help with fitting flood gates and other property-level protection measures.

I am also pleased to inform the House that insurers have agreed to continue to meet their commitments under the statement of principles until such a time as Flood Re can begin operation. This will provide valuable and immediate reassurance for householders.

The Water Bill will also reform the water sector to support growth and improve resilience, while ensuring it continues to attract long-term investment. It will introduce more competition in order to create a more innovative, efficient and dynamic sector which meets future demands and offers customers more choice and better service.

This Government are committed to delivering a new approach to flood insurance that is better than the statement of principles it will replace. I am determined to ensure, that one way or another, flood insurance is not just available but also that it is affordable. I believe that the proposals set out today will achieve this, and will for the first time provide real peace of mind to households at flood risk. With our investment in flood defence, and our approach to ensuring that only appropriate development takes place in flood risk areas, I am confident we have the right approach to tackling the long-term of risk of flooding.

Together our approach will help us build what we want to see—a stronger and more resilient economy in a fairer society.

Triennial Reviews

Today I am publishing the report of the review of the Environment Agency (EA) and Natural England (NE), which I launched in December 2012, and the report of the review of the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), which commenced in March 2013.

These reviews have taken a fundamental look at how the bodies can continue to deliver the Government’s priorities for the environment with improved resilience in the face of current and future environmental and economic challenges.

I have concluded that the EA and NE should be retained as separate public bodies with separate purposes and functions, but that both bodies should continue to reform how they deliver their services to their customers and drive further efficiencies.

The bodies will be tasked with delivering the conclusions of the reviews, developing a jointly owned implementation plan in close consultation with DEFRA. DEFRA will hold to account the leadership of both bodies for the delivery of the reforms.

Working with the devolved Administrations of Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales on the review of JNCC, I have concluded that JNCC is the most appropriate organisation to deliver its functions, and should be retained as a non-departmental public body. The review has identified a number of measures to deliver a more effective and efficient service which JNCC will now implement, developing their implementation plans in close consultation with DEFRA and the devolved Adminstrations, and reporting regularly on progress.

The reports of these reviews will be published online, and copies will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Afghanistan (Monthly Progress Report)

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 28th progress report on developments in Afghanistan since November 2010.

Voter registration ahead of the 2014 presidential and provincial elections was begun as expected on 26 May. Women make up 50% of the voter registration teams. Phase 1 focused on 41 registration centres across all 34 provinces. Limited progress was made on the passage of two important pieces of legislation which will form the structural basis of the electoral system used for the 2014 and 2015 electoral cycle.

As the fighting season intensifies, we have seen an increase in enemy-initiated and spectacular attacks, particularly in the east, west and north of the country. Nevertheless, violence levels within central Helmand appear lower than at the same point in the fighting season last year and the ANSF are holding firm. The ANSF responded well to attacks on the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in Kabul and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Jalalabad.

On 8 May, the Prime Minister confirmed in Parliament that UK force levels will be reduced to around 7,900 by the end of May, and to around 5,200 by the end of 2013, in line with security transition and progress on the ground.

On 15 May the NATO military chiefs of defence met and endorsed the concept of operations for the post-2014 NATO train, advise and assist mission in Afghanistan. Their advice to NATO Defence Ministers recognises the initial requirement for a regional approach to security.

On 14 May the Defence Secretary announced that some UK forces deploying to Afghanistan this October on Herrick 19 will serve up to eight months, rather than the usual six-month tours. In addition some personnel deploying on Herrick 20 in June 2014 may be required to serve up to nine months, to complete redeployment activity in Afghanistan should it continue into 2015. This will help to align our presence with key milestones between now and the end of 2014, such as the presidential elections and help to maintain operational continuity. Those personnel affected by the extended tours will be compensated from the 7.5 month point through the new Herrick draw-down allowance of £50 per day before tax.

This will be paid on top of the standard operational allowance package (except for those in receipt of campaign continuity allowance).

I am placing the report in the Library of the House. It will also be published on the gov.uk website www.gov.uk/government/publications/afghanistan-progress-report-May-2013.

Lithuania Presidency

I am keen to keep Members fully informed on developments in the European Union and their implications for the United Kingdom and our priorities. I would, therefore, like to draw Members’ attention to a paper on the priorities of the Lithuanian presidency of the Council of the European Union, which has been placed in the Library of the House. I have also deposited a copy of the calendar of ministerial meetings for the duration of their presidency.

Health

Health Council

The health part of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs (EPSCO) Council met on 21 June 2013 in Luxembourg. I represented the UK.

After considerable discussion and changes to the proposed text to address concerns of member states, including the United Kingdom, the Council agreed a general approach to the tobacco products directive. The UK secured a number of key changes to address UK policy priorities including: the ability to maintain picture warnings on all types of smoked tobacco; a more flexible approach to cross-border distance sales; adequate freedom for member states to take forward domestic public health policies in certain key areas, aiming for a higher level of health protection where this is justified. The UK supported the general approach. Four member states were not able to support the general approach.

The presidency provided progress reports on negotiations on the clinical trials regulation and the medical devices regulations.

Under any other business, the presidency provided information about the proposal for a decision on serious cross-border threats to health, the drugs action plan, the importation of active pharmaceutical products, the cross-border healthcare directive, the transparency directive and middle east respiratory syndrome coronavirus.

In the margins of the meeting I discussed the UK’s front-of-pack labelling scheme for food with Commissioner Borg and the Italian Minister, emphasising the voluntary nature of the recommendation.

International Development

Departmental Annual Report and Accounts

I have today published and laid before Parliament, the Department for International Development’s annual report and accounts for the year 2012-13.

The report provides information on DFID’s activities during 2012-13 in line with the International Development (Reporting and Transparency) Act 2006 and includes a full set of accounts for 2012-13. The report will be placed in the Libraries of the House of Commons and House of Lords for the reference of Members and copies will be made available in the Vote Office and Printed Paper Office. It is also available online on the Gov.UK website.

Justice

Office for Judicial Complaints (Annual Report 2012-13)

With the concurrence of the Lord Chief Justice, I will today publish the seventh annual report of the Office for Judicial Complaints (OJC), which provides support to the Lord Chief Justice and myself in our joint responsibility for the system of judicial complaints and discipline.

Over the past year the OJC has seen the volume of complaints it receives increase by a third; receiving over 2,100 complaints and 550 written inquiries. I am pleased, therefore, that the OJC continues to deliver a good service; providing complainants with a first substantive response within 15 working days in 93% of all cases it receives.

Subject to parliamentary approval, this annual report will be the last published by the OJC prior to the introduction of the Judicial Discipline (Prescribed Procedures) Regulations 2013. The new regulations are the product of a review conducted by a working group, led by Lord Toulson, and seek to establish a more efficient and streamlined process for handling complaints about the conduct of judicial office holders.

The introduction of the new regulations will also see the OJC become the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office (JCIO). I am confident that the JCIO will build on the solid foundations laid by the OJC over the last seven years and, in tandem with the introduction of the new regulations, will deliver further improvements and efficiencies in the handling of judicial conduct complaints.

Copies of the report are available in the Libraries of both Houses, the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. Copies of the report are also available on the internet at: http://judicialcomplaints.judiciary.gov.uk/publications.htm.

Transport

Approved Driving Instructors

The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) today launched a consultation on a reform of the regulatory framework for approved driving instructors (ADIs). The consultation seeks views on improving the way that people qualify to become driving instructors, including replacing the existing DSA qualifying tests with a new vocational qualification delivered by approved training centres and assessed by an external awarding organisation.

The new qualification would be aligned with DSA’s national standards that set out what skills are needed to be an effective driving instructor, and would reflect any changes introduced as a result of the Government’s upcoming Green Paper on young drivers.

The consultation also considers reforming the trainee licence scheme so that trainees would only be able to give paid tuition when accompanied by a fully qualified instructor; and seeks views on minor changes to the administration of the ADI register.

These proposals would also reduce the time and money that is currently wasted by many applicants as only 50% of them complete the current application process. Instead, the new system incorporates transferable credits which trainees will be able to carry forward to other vocational qualifications, if they change their mind about becoming an ADI. This allows for better job mobility.

The consultation will run from 27 June to 8 August 2013. The consultation paper is available at the following web address:

www.gov.uk/government/consultations/modernising-driver-training.

Work and Pensions

Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council

The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council met on 20 June 2013 in Luxembourg. I represented the UK.

There was a discussion on the European semester 2013 focusing on a number of documents linked to the European semester. The UK stressed the importance of the semester process in driving forward robust national labour market reforms and called on the Commission to share their staff working documents with member states in advance.

There was a separate discussion on youth employment. The UK cited its labour market flexibility and highlighted the youth contract and the work programme as key factors behind the fall in UK youth unemployment at a time when youth unemployment has risen in the EU.

The Council agreed a general approach on the European globalisation adjustment fund regulation (2014-20). The UK opposed this and stressed concerns about the efficiency of the instrument. There was also a progress report on the fund for European aid for the most deprived regulation.

The presidency secured Council agreement for a general approach on the proposed directive on minimum requirements for enhancing worker mobility by improving the acquisition and preservation of supplementary pension rights. The presidency provided updates on directives on equal treatment between persons irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation; enforcement of directive 96/71/EC on posting of workers in the framework of the provision of services; and gender balance among non-executive directors of companies listed on stock exchanges.

Ministers adopted two sets of Council conclusions on social investment for growth and cohesion and on women in the media.

Under any other business, the presidency provided updates on legislative files and preparations for the upcoming G20 Labour and Employment Ministers meeting and joint meeting with Finance Ministers. The Commission presented its legislative proposal on public employment services (PES) and the Lithuanian delegation outlined the work programme of their forthcoming presidency.

Social Fund (Annual Report 2012-13)

The Secretary of State’s annual report on the social fund for 2012-13 will be published later today.

The report records that total gross expenditure in 2012-13, excluding winter fuel payments, was £924 million. This figure includes 197,000 non-repayable community care grants and more than 2.8 million interest-free loans awarded worth over £558 million. Also, cold weather payments worth over £146 million, funeral payments worth £43 million and Sure Start maternity grants worth £39 million were paid.

In addition, over 9 million households benefited from a winter fuel payment at an estimated cost of around £2.1 billion.

This has been an important year in the history of the social fund as preparations were made to abolish those parts—community care grants and crisis loans—that had not kept pace with wider welfare reforms. They were too complex for ordinary people to understand and were poorly targeted, failing those they were meant to help the most.

From 1 April 2013 new local provision began, developed by upper tier local authorities in England and under arrangements made by the Scottish and Welsh Governments. I would like to take this opportunity to thank local authorities and the Scottish and Welsh Governments for the way in which they have engaged with the Department to deliver this significant change and to ensure help is now being targeted at those most in need.

The “Social Fund White Paper Account 2012-13” will also be laid in Parliament today. This publication provides an audited account of the social fund’s receipts and payments and notes on key balances.

This year, following nine years of qualification, the Comptroller and Auditor General is satisfied that the social fund is making award decisions materially in accordance with Parliament’s intentions and has not qualified his opinion on the regularity of social fund awards. The National Audit Office has tested samples of awards during the year and estimated the value of most likely error to be just 0.68%. This is a significant achievement for the Department and is the culmination of focused work over a number of years.

The social fund commissioner’s report on the standard of social fund inspectors’ decisions was published on 24 June.

All three of these documents will be available later today at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications.

Triennial Reviews

Triennial reviews of non-departmental public bodies are part of the Government’s commitment to ensuring accountability in public life. Later today I will launch a review of the Pensions Regulator, the Pensions Advisory Service, the pensions ombudsman and the pension protection fund ombudsman. This review will look at the functions of all four bodies and whether they should continue to exist in their current form. If the review determines that these bodies should continue, it will go on to consider whether they are operating in line with the recognised principles of good corporate governance. I will inform the House of the outcome of the review when it is completed and will place a copy of the review in the Libraries of both Houses.

Work Programme Official Statistics

The Department for Work and Pensions has today released official statistics covering the performance of the Work programme up to the end of March 2013, showing performance to the end of the second financial year of the Work programme .

The Work programme is designed to help people who are at risk of becoming long-term unemployed. Many of those being supported by the Work programme are in receipt of benefit for nine or 12 months before joining and are then supported over a minimum of two years.

The figures published today show the Work programme has significantly improved. A total of 132,000 jobseekers have escaped long-term unemployment and found lasting work—normally at least six months (three months or more for the hardest to help). This compares to 9,000 for the period up to the end of March 2012—a significant improvement.

The figures also highlight more people are getting into work within a year of joining the Work programme. The UK Statistics Authority has said that it does not regard the calculation by commentators that 3.5% of people got into work in the first year of the scheme as the most relevant figure on which to assess performance. It says that performance is better measured by counting how many people referred to the Work programme get into sustained work in their first year on the scheme on this measure, while just 8.5% of those who started the Work programme in June 2011 completed at least six months of work in their first year, this success rate has increased dramatically to 13.4% for more recent recruits who joined in March 2013.

Compared to many employment schemes under previous Governments, the programme targets the hardest to help into work, such as those claiming employment and support allowance. Some people have been out of work for more than 10 or 15 years, so it will take time to help them back. But the Work programme is offering them more support than previous employment schemes, and 6,000 of the harder to help have now found lasting work. We expect providers to deliver improving results as they share best practice.

Although many providers are now meeting their contracted levels for helping jobseeker’s allowance claimants, some are lagging behind. The Department intends to refer more claimants to better performing providers. We will be implementing market share shift in at least 16 instances. Implementation of these shifts will begin in August.