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Written Statements

Volume 691: debated on Thursday 26 April 2007

Written Statements

Thursday 26 April 2007

Airports: Office of Fair Trading Report

My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Trade, Investment and Foreign Affairs (Ian McCartney) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

We welcomed this Office of Fair Trading (OFT) report, which was published on 12 December 2006. As part of its statutory role, the OFT actively investigates markets that do not appear to be meeting the needs of consumers and publishes the results of these inquiries. Market studies are undertaken in areas where there are concerns that a particular market is not working well for consumers but where competition or consumer regulation enforcement action does not immediately appear to be the appropriate response.

Whilst we note that the focus of the report is related to the functions of the independent competition authorities, we recognise the value of an early response to the three particular issues aimed at the Government; namely:

the Government should publish criteria for de-designation of airports;

the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) should advise the Department for Transport (DfT) whether to de-designate Manchester airport before the statutory price control reference to the Competition Commission (CC) is due; and

the Government should consider transferring decisions on designation to the CAA.

These recommendations are fully in line with government policy that regulation should be necessary only when a competitive environment cannot deliver benefits to consumers. The DfT published a consultation document on the de-designation criteria on 26 February 2007 and once the outcome of this is known, they will undertake a further consultation on the de-designation of Manchester, and Stansted, airports. However, we believe it would be premature to consider transfer of decisions on designation to the CAA in advance of a reference by OFT of the supply of airport services to the CC—which OFT also announced it proposed to do in its report. The airport services market could be significantly altered by the outcome of such a reference.

The full government action plan is attached and copies of the OFT's report will be placed in the Members' Library. In preparing this response, we have worked closely with the relevant government departments, in particular the Department for Transport, which is responsible for policy on airports in the UK.

Government response to recommendations contained in Office Of Fair Trading (OFT) Airports Market Study

The Government welcome the recommendations aimed at the Government contained in the report UK Airports: A report on the market study and proposed decision to make a market investigation reference. While the Government note that the focus of the report is related to the functions of the independent competition authorities, we recognise the value of an early response to three particular issues raised. The three recommendations are fully in line with government policy that regulation should be necessary only when a competitive environment cannot deliver benefits to customers.

The Department for Transport should determine clear criteria for de-designation of airports. These criteria should be based on an appraisal of the economic costs and benefits generated by regulation.

The Government have accepted this recommendation and on 26 February 2007 issued a consultation document setting out the preferred criteria for both designation and de-designation. A copy of the criteria contained in the consultation document is attached in the annexe and these fully reflect the importance of competition and the economic costs and benefits.

The CAA should advise the Secretary of State for Transport on whether Manchester airport should be de-designated on competition grounds.

As indicated in the consultation document on designation criteria, a formal consultation on possible de-designation of Manchester and Stansted airports will be issued in the summer following the outcome of the consultation on the criteria to be applied.

Consideration should be given as to whether it remains necessary for Ministers to have the central role in making decisions on airport designation or whether this function might be transferred to the CAA.

The airports market could be significantly altered by the outcome of any Competition Commission reference (if indeed the OFT does refer the matter to it). It would be premature to consider this recommendation in advance of this. In addition to this recommendation, the Government also note the inquiry into sectoral regulation by the House of Lords and the inquiry into the work of the CAA by the Transport Select Committee. DfT will consult, at the appropriate time, on the wider economic regulatory role of the CAA including the way in which airport regulation operates.

Northern Ireland: Health and Social Services Estates Agency

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Paul Goggins, has made the following Ministerial Statement.

The targets, which have been set for 2007-08, are based on the strategic aim and objectives of the agency as set out in section 4 of its corporate and business plan. The targets are in line with the department’s policy of seeking to improve the service provided to the agency’s clients in terms of both quality and value for money and I am satisfied that they present a demanding challenge for the agency. A copy of the corporate and business plan will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

The targets are as follows:

Quality Targets

Ninety-five per cent of the service provided by the agency’s client support staff to external clients to be regarded as satisfactory, of which 35 per cent of the service to be regarded as either very good or excellent;

95 per cent of the service provided by the agency’s project management staff to external clients to be regarded as satisfactory, of which 35 per cent of the service to be regarded as either very good or excellent; and

95 per cent of the service provided by the agency’s specialist engineering staff to external clients to be regarded as satisfactory, of which 35 per cent of the service to be regarded as either very good or excellent.

Throughput/Service Delivery Targets

Issue all medical device/equipment alerts with an “immediate action” level of urgency designated, initiated by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), within three working days on receipt of final MHRA alert (provided that no further consultation is involved);

issue all medical device/equipment alerts with an “action” level of urgency designation, initiated by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) within five working days on receipt of final MHRA alert (provided that no further consultation is involved);

issue a high-voltage alert within four working days from receipt and assessment of an applicable electricity network association notice or other safety information in relation to high-voltage equipment installed in the HPSS;

complete a review of HPSS catering operations by November 2007 and take forward the development of a HPSS catering strategy by March 2008;

complete an assessment of the HPSS position against “essence of care” in regard to the Council of Europe statement on hospital food nutrition by 30 November 2007 and lead the exploration of appropriate initiatives to improve nutritional standards by 31 March 2008;

develop a regional strategy for laundry and linen services by 30 November 2007; and

publish a carbon and energy savings strategy in the Health and Personal Social Services estate by 31 March 2008.

Resource and Financial Management Targets

Ensure the agency meets its commitment to being “fit for purpose” and DRC reductions and its target of a reduction of 19 posts by 31 March 2008;

ensure that the agency lives within its running-cost allocation for the year; and

demonstrate that the full costs of the agency are recouped, on a notional basis, through the service level agreement with the department.

Northern Ireland: Prison Service

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Paul Goggins) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

I have placed copies of the Northern Ireland Prison Service's corporate and business plan for 2007-10 in the Libraries of both Houses.

The corporate and business plan contains key performance targets I have set for the service for 2007-08. These are:

no escape for top and high-risk prisoners;

no more than three escapes per 1,000 medium and low-risk prisoners;

the number of staff assaulted by prisoners is less than a ratio of three per 100 prisoners;

the number of prisoners assaulted by prisoners is less than a ratio of four per 100 prisoners;

an average of at least 20 hours constructive activity per week for each sentenced prisoner;

an average of at least 10 hours constructive activity per week for each remand prisoner;

to ensure 87 per cent of prisoners serving six months or more are working to a resettlement plan and that 97 per cent of lifers work to a life-sentence plan, including preparation of the plan, within the first six months of sentence;

each member of staff should receive an average of five training days;

reduce the rate of absenteeism to 13 days per head by 2007-08 with an overall reduction to 11 days by 2009-10;

lay the annual report and audited accounts before Parliament prior to the Summer Recess; and

ensure the average cost per prisoner place does not exceed £82,500.

Nuclear Industry: Post Mortems

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Alistair Darling) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Further to my Statement to the House on Wednesday 18 April (Official Report, Commons cols. 301-02), I am now able to announce the terms of reference for the inquiry that I have asked Mr Michael Redfern QC to carry out. They are as follows.

Having regard to the provisions of the Human Tissue Act 1961, the Coroners’ Rules 1984, the Coroners’ Act 1988 and predecessor legislation, to inquire into the circumstances in which, between 1961 and 1992, organs/tissue were removed from 65 individuals, and were sent to and analysed at Sellafield.

In particular, to establish so far as practicable:

when, where, by whom and by what means the taking of organs/tissue was requested and authorised;

whether the taking of organs/tissue was based on informed consent by the family and/or surviving relatives;

the purpose to be achieved by the retention and analysis of the organs/tissue removed; the generic results of analysis; and the identity of all publications in which the results were presented and commented upon;

whether the families or surviving relatives were informed of the results of the analysis, or the identity of the relevant publications;

when and by whom the retention, storage, transportation, analysis, reporting and disposal of the organs/tissue was authorised;

the circumstances in which the organs/tissue were retained, stored, transported, analysed, reported upon and disposed of;

the general purpose to be served by such retention, storage, analysis and publication of the results; and

when this activity ceased, and the circumstances in which it ceased.

To consider such other issues in connection with the above matters as the Secretary of State may direct.

To report to the Secretary of State as soon as possible.

To make recommendations.

Since my Statement to the House, the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) and the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) have begun to examine their records to identify whether tests on autopsy tissues were carried out at any of the sites for which they are, or have been responsible, other than Sellafield. The UKAEA tells me that it believes such work was carried out at Harwell, at least until the early 1980s, and possibly at other UKAEA sites, potentially involving work related to individuals who had not been employed at nuclear sites. The AWE believes that there could have been additional testing on its employees. In the light of this information, and in line with what I told the House last week, I have asked Michael Redfern QC to make this additional information part of his considerations.