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Written Statements

Volume 570: debated on Tuesday 12 November 2013

Written Statements

Tuesday 12 November 2013

Communities and Local Government

Improving Local Housing

I am publishing today, following consultation, a stock transfer manual for the period to 31 March 2015. The manual sets out the process for housing stock transfer and the criteria local authorities will need to meet where they propose, with the support of their tenants, to transfer their housing stock to a new or existing housing association landlord.

Following consultation, we have introduced some additional flexibility for local authorities and tenants who wish to transfer their homes and provided some further clarification on how the Government will assess transfer applications to ensure that they represent good value for money for the taxpayer. Where that is the case and a stock transfer offers opportunities for growth locally through more private investment in new and existing affordable housing stock, then Government financial support will be available.

We expect transfer proposals brought forward under the terms of this manual to complete by March 2015. Resources are available from the Department for Communities and Local Government to write off debt associated with the housing stock being transferred in this period.

It remains the case that transfers may only take place where that is the option favoured by a majority of tenants voting in a ballot. We also want to give tenants more opportunities to weigh up the benefits of transfer and lead the transfer process themselves.

The Government will shortly be laying the associated secondary legislation before Parliament. It will outline how local authorities should co-operate with tenant groups which wish to explore transfer and commence the process of transferring ownership where this is the favoured option.

Copies of the stock transfer manual and the analysis of responses to the consultation on the draft manual have been placed in the Library of the House and are available on the Department’s website.

Planning Applications

The Government are committed to ensuring that planning applications and related consents are processed promptly. Local people and authorities should be at the heart of planning, but where councils persistently fail to meet statutory deadlines for making decisions on time, applicants will be given the option of asking the Planning Inspectorate to decide their proposal instead.

Planning is a quasi-judicial process, and delays in making decisions are unfair both to local residents and local firms; justice delayed is justice denied. Individual applicants can already appeal directly to the Planning Inspectorate to have their application considered on grounds of non-determination (i.e. not determining an application within statutory deadlines).

In addition, section 1 of the Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013 has amended the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (“the 1990 Act”) by inserting new sections 62A to 62C. Section 62A allows a planning application, or an application for reserved matters consent, to be made directly to the Secretary of State where the local planning authority has been designated by him, provided the planning application (or the application for reserved matters consent) is for major development.

Applications made to the Secretary of State in this way will be submitted to and determined by the Planning Inspectorate, but the Act allows these to be “recovered” for Ministers’ own decision, in a similar way to planning appeals.

In the interests of transparency and consistency, decisions on whether to recover appeals are made with reference to published criteria. For planning applications made under section 62A the Secretary of State will employ the same criteria in deciding whether to recover the application for ministerial decision. A policy statement setting out these criteria has been placed in the Library of the House.

Cabinet Office

City Deals

Following the successful completion of the first wave of city deals in July 2012 with the “core cities”, the Government committed to work with a further 20 cities and their wider areas to negotiate a second wave of city deals in October 2012.

Over recent months I have been in negotiation with the Solent local enterprise partnership; Southampton city council; Portsmouth city council; Hampshire county council and local authorities that are members of the Partnership for Urban South Hampshire (Eastleigh, East Hampshire, Fareham, Gosport, Havant, Isle of Wight, New Forest, Test Valley and Winchester).

The Southampton and Portsmouth city deal will maximise the economic strengths of these two coastal cities and the wider Solent area, by supporting further growth in the area’s maritime, marine and advanced manufacturing sectors.

Over its lifetime, by bringing together the efforts and resources of local businesses, local councils and the Government, the Solent local enterprise partnership estimates that the deal will deliver:

Over 4,700 permanent new jobs particularly focused in marine, maritime and advanced manufacturing sectors;

Over 13,000 construction jobs;

Unlock 107,000 square metres of new employment floor space with a focus on supporting growth in the marine, maritime and advanced manufacturing sectors;

Support small and medium enterprises to grow through better business support over the next three years;

Provide £115 million of local and national public sector investment; and

Lever in over £838 million of private sector investment into the area through site development, skills and unemployment schemes; and business support services.

Health

NHS England (Mandate)

Today the Government have laid before Parliament the refreshed mandate to NHS England for 2014-15. The refreshed mandate will come into effect from 1 April 2014 and was developed following public consultation which ran from 5 July to 27 September.

The mandate sets an ambitious agenda to transform patient care and we expect NHS England to demonstrate significant progress against all the objectives by March 2015. To provide stability and enable the NHS to plan ahead, we have carried forward all existing 24 objectives. The Government have kept changes to an essential minimum to ensure the refreshed mandate remains strategic, outcomes-focused and affordable within NHS England’s budget, which is also set out in the mandate for 2014-15.

Where the Government have introduced changes, these focus on the priorities that will support the successful transformation of health and care services to meet the needs of an ageing population and the increasing prevalence of long-term physical and mental health conditions:

the vulnerable older people’s plan as a means for improving the health of the whole population and to provide excellent care for older people;

the addition of one new objective in relation to the system wide response to the Francis inquiry recommendations; and

taking forward actions to deliver a service that values mental and physical health equally.

The Government have included further ambitions on a limited number of areas to deliver the quality of care and treatment people need and expect. These areas are: reducing avoidable premature mortality; supporting people with dementia; improving patient experience—friends and family test; and making better use of resources.

The mandate also reflects the work being taken forward by NHS England to improve integrated care; addressing the failings witnessed at Winterbourne View private hospital; supporting a fair playing field for providers; improving outcomes for children and young people; and supporting innovation to improve patient care.

While the mandate sets out our vision over the long term, we also need to tackle immediate pressures. The Government previously announced their plans to handle pressures on A and E this winter and the allocation of £250 million funding to NHS England for distribution to the areas that need it most. The additional allocation requires an increase to the revenue budget for NHS England for 2013-14, and a revision to the current mandate will be laid before Parliament shortly reflecting this uplift in the budget only.

Alongside the mandate for 2014-15, we have published the Government’s response to the consultation and a refreshed version of the NHS outcomes framework 2014-15. Similar to the approach taken with the mandate, we have kept changes to the NHS outcomes framework to an essential minimum.

Copies of all these documents have been placed in the Library. Copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office and to noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office.

Home Department

Immigration and Visa Charging Principles

People who need permission to visit the UK and those who want to live, work or study here must pay a fee for their visa. It is important that we seek input into how we ensure that those who benefit directly from the immigration system and enhanced border control contribute appropriately to its costs in the future.

I am therefore launching a targeted consultation looking at charging principles which will begin on 12 November and will last for three weeks. As part of the consultation we will be seeking views on how the Home Office charges customers and the services it provides.

We will be seeking views from stakeholders who have an interest in the way fees are set, the consistency and complexity of fees and on premium services. We are also seeking views on proposals on administrative reviews and refunds and how the Home Office interacts with third parties.

A copy of the consultation document will be placed in the House Library and on the gov.uk website.

International Development

Typhoon Haiyan

I would like to update the House on the UK’s response to typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

Typhoon Haiyan made landfall in the Philippines on 7 November and was one of the strongest storms on record. It has caused widespread devastation. Current estimates suggest that 10,000 have been killed in Tacloban alone and over 4.3 million have been seriously affected by the storm. These numbers are likely to increase as those responding to the aftermath of the typhoon gain greater access to affected areas.

The Government of the Philippines ordered mass evacuations in advance of the storm and pre-positioned some humanitarian assistance around the country. However, the needs in the country are overwhelming and additional assistance has been requested in order to reach those in desperate need. The situation is also compounded by the residual impact of previous crises in the Philippines, such as an earthquake in October and the ongoing conflict in Mindanao. The Government of the Philippines accepted an offer of assistance from the UN Humanitarian Coordinator.

Typhoon Haiyan has caused significant infrastructural damage. Major roads have been affected and some remain impassable, hampering rescue and relief operations. Thirteen airports across the country have suspended operations. The main seaports remain closed. Power outages and communication interruptions are being experienced across a number of provinces which has raised concerns over access to water as pumps are now ineffective. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has indicated that critical needs include shelter, food, health, WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene), camp management and logistics. The UN World Food Programme estimates that 2.5 million people may be in need of emergency food aid.

The Prime Minister spoke with President Aquino of the Philippines on 10 November to offer UK assistance with the humanitarian response. DFID currently has a team of seven deployed to Manila with three more arriving today. I approved a £6 million aid package on 9 November for immediate life-saving humanitarian support. This included a £5 million allocation to DFID’s rapid response facility which channels funding at speed to pre-registered non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and includes the bulk purchase of humanitarian kit with pre-approved suppliers. This will provide humanitarian aid for up to 500,000 people, including temporary shelter and clean water. The additional £1 million is for in-kind support including the provision of urgently-needed shelter and household items from the UK’s humanitarian stockpile. Five aircraft have been chartered from Dubai in order to transport this support. The funding will also fund the deployment of two public health specialists to work with the World Health Organisation to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

On 11 November, the Prime Minster announced that the UK would increase its assistance to a total of £10 million. This includes a further £l million for aircraft handling and airlift of humanitarian supplies, as well as the provision of 4x4s and mobile deployment kits, and an additional £3 million allocation for the rapid response facility. As a further part of the UK response, HMS Daring will also redeploy to the affected region and will provide drinking water and a team of trained medics, as well as serve as a UK operating base, bringing helicopter airlift capacity.

The Philippines Department of Health has made it clear that there is an urgent need for extra medical assistance and as a result yesterday I activated the UK International Emergency Trauma Register (UKIETR). We are mobilising a 12 strong medical team of UK surgeons, doctors and paramedics.