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House of Commons Hansard
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Written Statements
11 March 2015
Volume 594

Written Statements

Wednesday 11 March 2015

Defence

Single Source Profit Rate

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I am today announcing that the Secretary of State for Defence has accepted the revised profit formula allowances recommended by the Single Source Regulations Office (SSRO). The new profit rates for 2015, which are lower than those currently in force, will be published in the London Gazette, as required by the Defence Reform Act 2014 and will come into effect from 1 April 2015 onwards. The table below shows the change to the profit rate.

Element

Rates 2014

Rates 2015

Baseline Profit Rate (BPR)

(% on contract cost)

10.70%

10.60%

Fixed Capital Servicing Allowance

(% on Fixed Capital employed)

6.20%

5.94%

Working Capital Servicing Allowance

(% on positive Working Capital employed)

2.07%

1.72%

Working Capital Servicing Allowance

9% on negative Working Capital employed)

1.25%

1.03%

I announced on 9 June 2014 the Department’s intention to replace the review board with the more empowered independent public body, the SSRO, as a result of the new single source contract regime introduced by the Defence Reform Act 2014 and by the single source contract regulations 2014. This came into force on 18 December 2014. I am now able to announce the formal dissolution of the Review Board for Government Contracts with effect from 31 March 2015.

I would like to put on record my thanks to the review board chairman, Mr Price, and to his four board members Messrs Beesley, Dobbyn, Mathias and Ms Skoyles for their dedicated services to the review board these past years, and for their assistance in helping with the transition to the new regime.

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Communities and Local Government

Town and Parish Councils

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The Government believe that neighbourhoods, and the communities that live in them, are the most fundamental element of localism. Neighbourhoods are where local democracy begins and where people are often most ready to get involved. Working at the neighbourhood level can transform local services, with better collaboration between agencies and services more flexible and responsive to local need. We want to see communities more in control of the decisions, assets and services that affect them; to build different relationships between people and services—with interaction, engagement and ownership accepted as the norm; and for people to have an understanding of how they can make a difference. Our support for neighbourhood planning is helping over 1,400 communities shape the future development of their area; the delivering differently in neighbourhoods programme is helping local authorities redesign services around the neighbourhood level; and we have supported 100 areas in using the our place approach to enable communities to have a greater say in how services are delivered in their area. On 17 February 2015 I announced a £6 million funding boost to the community rights programme for 2015-16, to help give even more people greater control and influence over what happens locally.

Parish councils are a vital part of this picture, as the tier of local government closest to their communities. Parish councils provide communities with a democratically accountable voice and a structure for taking community action. Currently only around two fifths of the population is covered by a parish council, so the Government want to make it easier to set up new town and parish councils by changing the rules around how community governance reviews are triggered and carried out.

The draft Legislative Reform (Community Governance Reviews) Order 2015 was laid before Parliament on 11 December 2014. The order aims to make it easier to set up new town and parish councils by proposing a reduction in the percentage of local government electors required to sign a community governance petition, to trigger a review, from 10% to 7.5% in larger electorates—the proportions required for smaller electorates would be reduced in line with that change. It also proposes a reduction in the period for the relevant local authority to conclude a community governance review, from 12 months from the date the review begins, to 12 months from the date of receipt of the petition or application. Finally, it proposes that those neighbourhood forums which have a neighbourhood development plan that has passed a referendum should be given the right to trigger a community governance review without the need for a petition.

The House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee recommended, in its 15th report, that the order follow the super-affirmative procedure and sought some additional information about the nature of the burdens in relation to the changes to reduce the time period for a community governance review and to give neighbourhood forums the right to trigger a community governance review. The Committee also raised the issue of the proportionality of the changes proposed. Following consideration of additional information provided by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the Committee has reported, in its 19th report, published on 6 March, that it is now satisfied that the order meets the tests set out in the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006 and is not otherwise inappropriate for the Legislative Reform Order procedure. (The correspondence between the Committee and the Secretary of State is published in its 19th report.)

The House of Commons Regulatory Reform Committee recommended that the draft order be approved subject to the outcome of the further deliberations of the Lords Committee.

No other representations have been made to the Department for Communities and Local Government in connection with this order. I therefore propose to proceed with the draft order without any revisions.

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Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Marine Management Organisation (Triennial Review)

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Today I am publishing the report of the triennial review of the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), which was launched by DEFRA’s then Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs the hon. Member for Newbury (Richard Benyon) on 10 September 2013. Triennial reviews of non-departmental public bodies are part of the Government’s commitment to ensuring accountability in public life.

The MMO exists to make a significant contribution to sustainable development in the marine areas and to promote the UK Government’s vision for clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas. The purpose behind its creation was to bring marine management activities from across Government into one place, to provide a more integrated approach to fisheries management, marine planning, licensing and conservation.

The review has concluded that the functions of the MMO are necessary for the UK Government’s vision for clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas. The function should continue to be delivered by a non-departmental public body; and the MMO remains the right body to deliver them.

The review also considered the MMO’s governance and control arrangements. It found many positive features and concluded that it has shown improvements in service delivery since 2010. However, the review has made some recommendations.

The full report of the review of the MMO can be found on the website at: http://www.gov.uk and copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

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Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Foreign Affairs Council and General Affairs Council

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My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs will attend the Foreign Affairs Council on 16 March and I will attend the General Affairs Council on 17 March. The Foreign Affairs Council will be chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, and the General Affairs Council will be chaired by the Latvian presidency. The meetings will be held in Brussels.

Foreign Affairs Council

Bosnia Herzegovina (BiH)

During her introduction, Ms Mogherini will update Ministers on progress of the EU initiative on Bosnia. Now that the BiH Parliament has approved the written commitment to reform we expect Ms Mogherini to recommend that the Foreign Affairs Council give political agreement for the EU/BiH stabilisation and association agreement to be adopted at the April General Affairs Council. The UK will fully support this approach.

Africa

Ministers will have a strategic discussion on Africa, which was rescheduled from the February FAC. The UK will stress the link between trade and development and peace and security, and underline the importance of the EU retaining its role as a key player on the continent. The UK will also emphasise the importance of a partnership of equals: the EU should welcome the African Union’s developing capacity to respond to African crises, while encouraging the Africans to speak out constructively on global issues. The UK will also use the FAC to focus on Nigeria’s 28 March presidential elections and will want to signal continued support for supporting regional efforts to tackle Boko Haram. The UK will also encourage the EU to capitalise on the successful high-level Ebola conference on 3 March, stressing the primary objective of getting to zero new cases and the immediate need to fund the $400 million of critical activity to achieve this, as well as other priorities such as improved regional co-ordination and a safe transition to a sustainable recovery.

Libya

We expect the discussion to focus on the role that the EU should play in Libya. The UK will seek agreement from member states to a twin-track approach that includes providing support to the political process and improving the security situation. A further discussion on Libya will take place at the European Council on 19 March.

Eastern Partnership

Ministers will discuss preparations for the Eastern Partnership summit, which will take place in Riga on 21-22 May 2015. The UK will argue that the summit should send a strong message endorsing the sovereign right of Eastern Partnership countries—Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine—to make their own strategic choices without third party interference. The EU should also confirm support for the implementation of real reforms on the ground for the benefit of citizens of partner countries, including through the implementation of the EU association agreements with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

Migration

Ms Mogherini has proposed a review of policies on migration, arguing that the challenge of migratory pressures needs both a political and operational response, with migration being linked to external affairs and other engagements with third countries. Ministers will consider this review and have a strategic discussion on the proposed migration agenda. The UK broadly supports this initiative but we look forward to further detailed information about the proposal and how it may impact on our broader interests.

AOB: Iraq

The Hungarian Government have requested that member states contribute financially to an appeal by Archbishop Wardh of Erbil for Christian families displaced by ISIL. The UK remains deeply concerned by the persecution of all communities, Muslims, Christians, Yezidis, Turkmen and others, by ISIL. The UK is providing £39.5 million in humanitarian aid and supports the commitments made by Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi to inclusive governance and protecting the rights of all minorities.

General Affairs Council

The General Affairs Council (GAC) on 17 March is due to focus on: preparation of the European Council on 19 and 20 March 2015; and the European semester.

Preparation of the March European Council

The GAC will prepare the 19 and 20 March European Council, which the Prime Minister will attend. The March European Council agenda is expected to include: energy union; economic issues (including the 2015 European semester); and external relations issues (likely to include preparation for the Eastern Partnership summit in May, Ukraine and Libya).

European Semester

The GAC will consider the synthesis report on the 2015 European semester exercise. This is a policy discussion and there are no anticipated outputs at this stage. We welcome the focus of the annual growth survey on jobs and growth and emphasise that the semester should not be diluted by the inclusion of other agendas.

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Health

NHS Charges

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My right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health, Earl Howe, has made the following written ministerial statement.

Regulations have been laid before Parliament to increase certain national health service charges in England from 1 April 2015.

This Government have made tough decisions to protect the NHS budget and increase it in real terms, but health charges remain an important source of revenue to support the delivery of high-quality NHS services. This is particularly important given the increasing demands on the NHS, with spending on medicines alone doubling since 2000. It is therefore crucial that these charges increase to keep up with rising costs.

This year, we have increased the prescription charge by 15p from £8.05 to £8.20 for each medicine or appliance dispensed.

Ninety per cent of prescription items are already provided free of charge.

To ensure that people with the greatest need are protected, such as those who are not eligible for free prescriptions but who have long-term conditions, we have again frozen the costs of a prescription prepayment certificate (PPC). The three month certificate remains at £29.10, and the cost of the annual certificate will remain at £104. An annual certificate means that a person can have all the prescribed items they require during the year dispensed for £2 per week.

Regulations have also been laid to increase NHS dental charges from 1 April 2015. The dental charge payable for a band one course of treatment will increase by 30p from £18.50 to £18.80. The dental charge for a band 2 course of treatment will increase by 80p from £50.50 to £51.30. The charge for a band 3 course of treatment will increase by £3.50 from £219 to £222.50. The small increases this year are lower than in recent years.

Dental charges represent an important contribution to the overall cost of dental services. The exact amount raised will be dependent upon the level and type of primary dental care services commissioned by NHS England and the proportion of charge paying patients who attend dentists and the level of treatment they require.

Charges will also be increased, by an overall 1.6%, for wigs and fabric supports.

The range of NHS optical vouchers available to children, people on low incomes and individuals with complex sight problems are also being increased in value. In order to continue to provide help with the cost of spectacles and contact lenses, optical voucher values will rise by an overall 1%.

Details of the revised charges are in the following tables.

NHS Charges—England from 1 April 2015

New Charge (£)

Prescription Charges

Single item

£8.20

3 month PPC (no change)

£29.10

12 month PPC (no change)

£104.00

Dental Charges

Band 1 course of treatment

£18.80

Band 2 course of treatment

£51.30

Band 3 course of treatment

£222.50

Wigs and Fabrics

Surgical brassiere

£27.45

Abdominal or spinal support

£41.50

Stock modacrylic wig

£67.75

Partial human hair wig

£179.45

Full bespoke human hair wig

£262.45

Optical voucher values from 1 April 2015

Type of optical appliance

Value

A

Glasses with single vision lenses: spherical power of ≤ 6 dioptres, cylindrical power of ≤ 2 dioptres.

£38.70

B

Glasses with single vision lenses:

£58.70

- spherical power of > 6 dioptres but < 10 dioptres, cylindrical power of ≤ 6 dioptres;

- spherical power of < 10 dioptres, cylindrical power of > 2 dioptres but ≤ 6 dioptres.

C

Glasses with single vision lenses:

£86

- spherical power of ≥ 10 dioptres but ≤ 14 dioptres, cylindrical power ≤ 6 dioptres.

D

Glasses with single vision lenses:

£194.10

- spherical power of > 14 dioptres with any cylindrical power;

- cylindrical power of > 6 dioptres with any spherical power.

E

Glasses with bifocal lenses:

£66.80

- spherical power of ≤ 6 dioptres, cylindrical power of ≤ 2 dioptres.

F

Glasses with bifocal lenses;

£84.80

- spherical power of > 6 dioptres but < 10 dioptres, cylindrical power of ≤ 6 dioptres;

- spherical power of < 10 dioptres, cylindrical power of > 2 dioptres but ≤ 6 dioptres.

G

Glasses with bifocal lenses:

£110.10

- spherical power of ≥ 10 dioptres but ≤ 14 dioptres, cylindrical power = 6 dioptres.

H

Glasses with prism-controlled bifocal lenses of any power or with bifocal lenses:

£213.40

- spherical power of > 14 dioptres with any cylindrical power;

- cylindrical power of > 6 dioptres with any spherical power.

I

(HES) Glasses not falling within any of paragraphs 1 to 8 for which a prescription is given in consequence of a testing of sight by an NHS trust.

£198.80

J

Contact lenses for which a prescription is given in consequence of a sight test by an NHS trust or NHS foundation trust.

£56.40

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