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Written Statements

Volume 694: debated on Thursday 26 July 2007

Written Statements

Thursday 26 July 2007

Attorney-General: Consultation Paper

I have today published a consultation paper on the role of the Attorney-General. The consultation period will run until the end of November.

When the Government published their Green Paper The Governance of Britain, this included a commitment to reform the role of the Attorney-General. This is a complex role which has evolved over centuries and comprises a broad and varied range of functions which are fundamental in upholding the rule of law. I am keen to have the widest possible engagement on the important issues raised, and would welcome responses from parliamentarians.

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

BRB (Residuary) Ltd

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Tom Harris) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

I have today issued revised and expanded guidance to BRB (Residuary) Ltd (BRBR) on the procedures that should follow prior to disposing of its non-operational estate.

Historically, the company has been required to make an assessment as to whether a property is likely to be needed for a rail, other transport or brownfield development use in the future. Part of this assessment has involved consulting parties in the rail industry, local transport and planning authorities and other potentially interested parties. The new guidance that I have issued today makes it clear that these arrangements will continue. In addition, it now sets out in clear terms what we expect to happen as and when a consultee identifies such a use for the site in question. Specifically, the company is now expected to ensure that the body that has expressed an interest in the site should take on the holding costs as soon as possible and acquire the site at market value, within a reasonable timeframe. The new guidance makes it clear that in the majority of cases a period of six months represents a reasonable timeframe for interested parties to acquire a site.

This new guidance will ensure that the company continues to facilitate and encourage transport and brownfield development projects and that the promoters of such schemes have ample opportunity to purchase sites. It will also ensure that sites can be released on the open market for development in a reasonable timeframe where no realistic transport or brownfield development opportunities can be identified.

In the case of surplus BRBR land, which is not needed for a future transport use, BRBR and English Partnerships will be working closely together with a view to that surplus land being released for housing development, which is a key government priority. A substantial number of BRBR sites have been identified for joint assessment with English Partnerships for housing development and a similar approach is being adopted in relation to Department for Transport agencies, such as the Highways Agency.

Copies of the revised guidance have been placed in the Libraries of the House. A copy is also available on BRBR’s website at www.brbr.gov.uk.

Children: Child Care

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Bridget Prentice) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

In agreement with the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Children, Schools and Families (Kevin Brennan) and the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services in the Welsh Assembly Government (Gwenda Thomas), I am pleased to be able to inform the House of the progress we are making towards improving the child care proceedings system in England and Wales.

The Government set out the strategy for all children in England in the consultation paper Every Child Matters: Change for Children, published in September 2003. In this paper, we identified five key outcomes for children, which are universal ambitions for all children, whatever their background or circumstances. Our aim is for every child to be healthy; stay safe; enjoy and achieve; make a positive contribution; and, achieve economic well-being. In Wales, Rights to Action, published in April 2004, set out policies within the framework of seven outcome-based aims founded on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. We believe that the outcomes set out in these policies are particularly important in the case of children who are the subject of care proceedings.

We know that more can and must be done to improve the child care proceedings system, and contribute to better and more positive outcomes for children. Currently, a care or supervision application takes an average of 51 weeks in care centres and 42 weeks in family proceedings courts from the time of application to the point of disposal. Many cases take much longer. We believe that there is much that can be done to reduce this period of uncertainty in the lives of these children and their families.

Recognising this, the former Department for Constitutional Affairs and the former Department for Education and Skills, with input from the Welsh Assembly Government and a wide range of stakeholders, jointly undertook a review of child care proceedings and the findings were published in May 2006. The Review of the Child Care Proceedings System in England and Wales set out a number of proposals to improve the child care proceedings system. Implementing the “immediate” recommendations of the review is a key priority for both our departments and I am pleased to announce a detailed timetable relating to two of the key recommendations of the review.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families in England and the Welsh Assembly Government in Wales are consulting on proposals to issue revised statutory guidance to local authorities under Section 7 of the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970. The consultation commenced in England on 29 June 2007 and will last for 13 weeks. The revised statutory guidance will be published in England in November 2007. In Wales, the guidance will be issued to all local authorities shortly for consultation to broadly similar timescales. The revision to the guidance will put greater emphasis on the work undertaken by local authorities before care proceedings can be commenced.  In particular, they will be required to notify parents of their intention to make an application to the court and to set out the basis of their concerns and an outline of their future plans for the child. On receipt of this, parents will be able to have immediate access to publicly funded legal help from a solicitor, funded by the Legal Services Commission.

In conjunction with the Judicial Office for England and Wales, the Ministry of Justice is consulting stakeholders during summer 2007 on a revision of Protocol for Judicial Case Management in Public Law Children Act Cases, to be entitled Public Law Outline. Testing of the outline in 10 centres from June 2007 will be followed by implementation in England and Wales from April 2008. The outline will underpin the revised statutory guidance by promoting compliance with the pre-proceedings requirements. It will be contained in a practice direction from the president of the Family Division, to be issued with the concurrence of the Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor. The practice direction will prescribe and timetable the steps to be taken by parties, and the directions to be made by the court for the timely disposal of care applications.

Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority: Annual Report and Accounts

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Crime Reduction (Vernon Coaker) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am today laying before Parliament, with the Comptroller and Auditor General, the annual report and accounts for 2006-07 for the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. It is being laid before the Scottish Parliament by the Scottish Ministers simultaneously.

The annual report and accounts describe the activities of the authority in paying financial compensation to victims of violent crime under the terms of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Act 1995.

The accounts estimate the final settlement value of cases in progress and the predicted value of applications which have not yet been received in respect of crimes that have already occurred. As a result, the balance sheet at 31 March 2007 shows net liabilities of £1,187 million.

In 2006-07, the authority received 60,861 applications for compensation and resolved 59,096. The number of cases outstanding at 31 March 2007 was 87,543. The proportion of cases decided within 12 months was 62.9 per cent.

DSDA Longtown: Non-Explosive Storage

My right honourable friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Bob Ainsworth) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I have now approved, effective from 1 August 2007, the early closure of the non-explosive (NE) elements of the Defence Storage and Distribution Agency (DSDA) site at Longtown.

Under the Future Defence Supply Chain Initiative (FDSCi), the MoD assessed a range of options for managing and operating the defence supply chain to reduce costs of ownership, while maintaining or improving service levels and enhancing operational capability. The selected option included plans for the withdrawal of all non-explosive storage from the DSDA Longtown by mid-2009.

Since the announcement, work has been undertaken to design a stock relocation plan that will reposition Longtown non-explosive (NE) stocks to other retained DSDA sites. The stock relocation plan has matured and, as a consequence, it is now clear that DSDA has the opportunity to bring forward the planned Longtown NE closure date to the end of July 2007.

The proposal to withdraw NE stocks from Longtown early will affect 62 staff. Approximately 350 staff will be left at the site. Additional staff will be required for the ammunition box task (refurbishing ammo boxes), which transfers from the NE to the explosives business at the site on 31 July 2007. As a consequence, there will be no early release scheme or compulsory redundancies.

I recognise that the early withdrawal of NE stocks from the DSDA Longtown will not be a welcome prospect for those staff who stand to be affected. The DSDA is, however, confident that it can manage the changes without recourse to compulsory redundancies through a combination of the transfer of staff to vacancies on the Longtown explosive site and by releasing staff on fixed-term appointments.

Consultation with the trades unions has been completed and there were no substantive matters raised that preclude implementation. On this basis, I have decided to fully implement the change.

EU: Informal Competitiveness Council

My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Competitiveness (Stephen Timms) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The following Statement provides information on the Informal Competitiveness Council in Lisbon on 20 and 21 July 2007, at which I represented the UK. The meeting was chaired by Manuel Pinho, Portuguese Minister for Economy and Innovation.

Friday 20 July

SME Policy

The mid-term review of the EU's SME policy was discussed. The presidency presented a discussion paper on four main topics:

innovation on financing;

better regulation;

internationalisation; and

energy efficiency.

Ministers agreed on the urgent need to tackle challenges identified in the presidency's paper. There was strong support for ongoing work towards reducing EU admin burdens by 25 per cent. Several Ministers called for more to be done to encourage cross-border investment and for more information to be provided to SMEs on third-country markets. A few Ministers wanted more benchmarking, though I cautioned against duplication. I called for a refocus on encouraging SMEs to grow and for more action on better regulation, access to finance and ensuring that SMEs could exploit opportunities provided by moves towards a low carbon economy.

There was good support for the role of the Competitiveness Council in monitoring of developments in SME policy. Gunter Verheugen, Commission vice-president, urged the Competitiveness Council to evaluate effects of other policies on SME competitiveness.

Dinner—The State of the EU economy

Dinner was devoted to a discussion on EU growth: cyclical or structural, with guest speaker Prof Francesco Giavazzi of Bocconi University, Milan and MIT. I noted the impact of recent economic growth performance by the EU.

Saturday 21 July

Sustainable Industry Policy

Ministers debated sustainable industry policy, based on the Commission's recent communication on the mid-term review of industry policy. Discussion was focused on three key pillars of a sustainable industrial policy:

acceleration of innovation and creation of lead markets;

full exploitation of the European internal market for the development in sustainable goods, services and technologies markets; and

“first mover” advantage, exporting EU know-how in the low carbon economy to external markets.

Ministers agreed that a more efficient product policy could be a major contribution for competitiveness and sustainability of European enterprises. They also agreed that the promotion of lead market initiatives for low carbon and efficient products and services was an important way of speeding up transition towards a low carbon economy and to put Europe as a frontrunner in global markets. I stressed the need to identify market failures and supported wide-ranging action on product policy, such as standards and labelling. There was general support from the Ministers.

Finance Bill 2008

My honourable friend the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Angela Eagle) has made the following Written Statement.

The Finance Bill 2008 will contain provisions amending the definition of ultra-low sulphur diesel (ULSD) in the Hydrocarbon Oil Duties Act 1979, to take retrospective effect from 4 September 2007.

The Motor Fuel (Composition and Content) (Amendment) Regulations (SI 2007/1608) issued by the Department for Transport require oil suppliers to supply sulphur-free diesel (SFD) to garage forecourts from 4 December 2007. While the current duty rate on both ULSD and SFD is 48.35 pence per litre, mixtures of the two fuels meet neither definition, and are liable to the heavy oil duty rate (currently 54.68 ppl).

In the transitional period before and after the DfT regulations come into force, there may be occasions when ULSD and SFD need to be mixed, and the high rate of duty may act as a disincentive for the industry to supply SFD. The provisions will remove the density and distillation requirements from the ULSD definition, so that mixtures of ULSD and SFD will meet the ULSD definition. Bringing forward the deregulatory changes to the definition of ULSD will ensure the smooth changeover from ULSD to SFD.

Flooding: Tax Assistance

My right honourable friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Jane Kennedy) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Government have taken a series of steps to support individuals and communities affected by the recent flooding.

In addition to this, I want to ensure that people affected by flooding do not have to worry about tax and related issues at this difficult time and to make it easy for them to receive their tax credits. Individuals or businesses affected by the flooding should get in touch with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), which will be able to provide practical support and advice. For example, HMRC will consider:

suspending collection of taxes and duties, or agreeing instalment arrangements where customers are unable to pay as a result of severe hardship;

practical arrangements where individuals and businesses have lost records in the flooding;

suspending debt collection proceedings; and

deferring and suspending compliance checks and investigations.

HMRC will not charge penalties where it is satisfied that customers have missed deadlines as a result of the flooding. In addition the Government will bring forward legislation in next year's Finance Bill which will allow the Commissioners of HM Revenue and Customs to waive interest and surcharges on tax paid late due to the floods. The Government propose to make this legislation retrospective from the date of this announcement. The Commissioners will exercise their discretionary powers not to collect such interest and surcharges in the interim.

HMRC will also support those who have difficulty sending in their tax credit renewals on time or notifying HMRC of any change in circumstances. Individuals affected by the floods should contact HMRC which will take steps to ensure that tax credits continue to be paid at the right level.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Travel Advice

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Meg Munn) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Travel advice is one of the most important public services which the Foreign and Commonwealth Office delivers. We provide travel advice notices for 218 countries and territories based on the most accurate and up-to-date information available to us. With the constant growth in international travel, more people are using FCO travel advice. In 2006, the FCO travel advice website received, on average, 150,000 visitors a week and our call centre handled 62,700 telephone inquiries over the course of the year.

Travel advice is designed to help British travellers to make informed decisions about travelling abroad and it is therefore kept under regular review to ensure that the information it provides remains of the highest quality.

Following feedback from British travellers and tour operators about travel advice, we have identified areas where we could improve the language we use to explain the nature of the terrorist threat. The principles of FCO travel advice, as agreed in the 2004 Review (Command Paper 6158) in relation to the threat from terrorism, remain unchanged. It will continue to draw on intelligence assessments, open source and media reporting, the local knowledge of our overseas posts and their diplomatic reporting. We are now introducing four generic threat descriptors, intended to clarify the scale of the terrorist threat to the travelling public. Drawing from our experience of what our customers need from travel advice, we consider that these descriptions are the most helpful to the travelling public given the innate difficulty of describing the threat from terrorism. The descriptors, as agreed with the travel industry and other stakeholders, are:

a high threat from terrorism” means a high level of known terrorist activity;

“a general threat from terrorism” means some level of known terrorist activity;

“an underlying threat from terrorism” means a low level of known terrorist activity; and

“a low threat from terrorism” means no or very limited known terrorist activity.

Our travel advice will continue to reflect the best judgments we can make at the time, though, as we have seen in the UK, it is possible for attacks to take place without prior warning. I believe that these changes will improve our travel advice to give effective information to help British travellers make informed decisions about their travel plans and personal security overseas.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport (Ruth Kelly) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

I am publishing today details of the number and cost to departments of the provision of allocated cars and drivers by the Government Car and Despatch Agency to Ministers during 2005-06 and 2006-07.

The figures for 2005-06 are:

Department

No. of Ministerial Cars

Contracted cost (£)

Notes

Cabinet Office

7

423,700

1

Department for Constitutional Affairs

5

293,400

Department for Culture, Media and Sport

4

265,200

Department for Education and Skills

7

428,900

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

5

319,700

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

4

240,700

2

Department of Health

6

371,800

Home Office

7

436,400

Department for International Development

2

124,500

Office of the Deputy Prime Minister

6

383,400

Attorney-General’s Office

2

126,600

Northern Ireland Office

5

418,400

3

Privy Council Office

3

168,300

Scotland Office

1

58,900

4

Department of Trade and Industry

6

366,800

Department for Transport

4

256,100

5

HM Treasury

5

328,200

Wales Office

1

71,300

Department for Work and Pensions

6

390,700

Notes

(1) Cabinet Office figures include cars for Ministers in the Cabinet Office, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Chief Whip in the House of Commons and the Minister without Portfolio.

(2) The Minister of State for Trade, Investment and Foreign Affairs was a post held jointly between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Department for Trade and Industry. The Government Car Service (GCS) costs were met by the FCO.

(3) The right honourable Peter Hain MP was both Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and Secretary of State for Wales. GCS costs were met by the Northern Ireland Office.

(4) The GCS car and driver provided to the Scotland Office was shared by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State and the Advocate-General.

(5) The right honourable Douglas Alexander MP was both Secretary of State for Transport and Secretary of State for Scotland. GCS costs were met by the Department for Transport.

The figures for 2006-07 are:

Department

No of Ministerial Cars

Annual Contracted cost (£)

Notes

Cabinet Office

8

531,700

1

Department for Constitutional Affairs

5

339,000

Department for Culture, Media and Sport

4

279,600

Department for Education and Skills

7

464,900

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

5

323,300

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

5

324,500

2

Department of Health

6

387,100

Home Office

7

487,500

Department for International Development

2

132,200

ODPM/Department for Communities & Local Government

6

393,900

3

Attorney-General’s Office

2

133,900

Northern Ireland Office

5

434,400

4

Privy Council Office

3

204,100

Scotland Office

1

62,200

5

Department of Trade and Industry

5

312,200

6

Department for Transport

4

263,300

HM Treasury

5

346,700

Wales Office

1

74,600

Department for Work and Pensions

5

407,800

Notes

(1) Cabinet Office figures include cars for Ministers in the Cabinet Office, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Chief Whip in the House of Commons, the Minister without Portfolio and the Deputy Prime Minister (since May 2006).

(2) The Minister of State for Trade, Investment and Foreign Affairs was a post held jointly between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Department for Trade and Industry. The GCS costs were met by the FCO.

(3) Machinery of Government changes in May 2006 created the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Deputy Prime Minister's Office from The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

(4) The right honourable Peter Hain MP was both Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and Secretary of State for Wales. GCS costs were met by the Northern Ireland Office.

(5) The GCS car and driver provided to the Scotland Office was shared by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State and the Advocate-General.

(6) The right honourable Douglas Alexander MP was both Secretary of State for Transport and Secretary of State for Scotland. GCS costs were met by the Department for Transport.

Immigration: Border and Immigration Agency

My honourable friend the Minister of State for Borders and Immigration and Minister for the West Midlands (Liam Byrne) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I wish to inform the House that I am publishing today a consultation document on the implementation of measures in the Police and Justice Act 2006 extending the Independent Police Complaints Commission's jurisdiction to cover the Border and Immigration Agency's enforcement functions. Copies of this consultation document have been placed in the House Library.

We have embarked upon an ambitious programme of reform of the Border and Immigration Agency to improve the effectiveness of our immigration controls. Change in three key areas will make a substantial difference to the organisation's performance. Establishing the Border and Immigration Agency as an executive agency will provide greater autonomy to deliver effective immigration controls within a policy framework agreed by Ministers. The new regional structure more responsive to local communities will keep the public in touch with how the agency is performing in their particular region. The introduction of tougher, independent oversight and accountability to Parliament and the public will ensure we build confidence in the new system moving forward. All are of equal importance in helping us secure the objectives of the immigration enforcement strategy published in March.

The IPCC will support these reforms by providing independent oversight of the most serious incidents and complaints and an assurance that agency staff will be held accountable to an independent organisation. This oversight will be in line with that which the IPCC provides for the police and other law enforcement bodies. While the new chief inspector created by the UK Borders Bill will monitor the effectiveness of the agency as a whole, the IPCC will provide expert, independent oversight on the actions of enforcement staff in individual cases. The consultation paper sets out the proposed content of the regulations detailing the exact remit of the IPCC and invites comments which will inform the final version.

The consultation period ends on 17 October 2007. We will then report on the results of the consultation and our proposed course of action.

Ministry of Defence: Support to Current Operations

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence (Des Browne) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am today announcing a number of initiatives which will enhance our operational effectiveness.

The 1998 Strategic Defence Review identified the need to have robust strategic lift capability to ensure success on operations and we subsequently leased four Boeing C-17 Globemaster aircraft. Our experience of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan has reinforced this judgment and last year we announced our intention to procure these aircraft at the end of their lease in 2008 and also to procure a fifth C-17 aircraft, which will enter service in May 2008. We now intend to purchase a sixth C-17. The aircraft, which can be delivered in 2008, will be a significant boost to the UK's strategic airlift capability and will provide greater robustness in our ability to transport troops and equipment quickly to wherever they are needed.

As part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan, we are deploying on a rotational basis with our Canadian and Dutch allies a 2-Star (Divisional level) Headquarters in command of Regional Command (South) (RC(S)) based in Kandahar. We are also responsible for providing HQ Multi National Division (South East) in Basrah, Iraq. In order to meet these temporary demands, we have decided to augment the forces' command structure, and will temporarily establish an additional 2-Star deployable HQ. It will be based in York and will be known as HQ 6 Division, with a core of 55 service personnel drawn from existing structures. We will keep our planning assumption under review, but currently we assess that this HQ will be established until 2011.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development: Innovation Review

My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Competitiveness (Stephen Timms) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

We welcome the announcement that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is to carry out an innovation review of the north of England.

The OECD launched the series reviews of regional innovation to address a demand by national and regional governments for greater clarity on how to strengthen the innovation capacity of regions. These reviews are part of a wider project on competitiveness at the regional level. The north of England is one study in this series. The work builds on the OECD's existing areas of expertise, including territorial reviews of regions (such as the recent territorial review of Newcastle) and reviews of national-level policies.

To be successful, the UK has to continue to build a knowledge-based economy. Encouraging better innovation performance within our regions is pivotal to this end. The Government are committed to improving the economic performance of all UK regions. This regional review of innovation will help develop effective, realistic strategies to raise the rate of sustainable economic growth in the north of England. Greater insight into innovation in the north will directly aid the Northern Way's contribution to regional economic performance.

The review is co-funded by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and the Northern Way. The Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills is also heavily involved, due to its interest in regional innovation systems. In addition to the project sponsors, the OECD will work collaboratively with core partners across the north, including the three regional development agencies (RDAs) and the N8, which is a powerful alliance of northern England's eight research-intensive universities.

Objectives of the Study

The review will examine how innovation can be more effectively harnessed to benefit the northern economy. Through clear recommendations and benchmarking, the review will provide guidance as to how the north can optimally develop its innovation capacity.

The specific aim is to help the north better understand the barriers and opportunities for innovation in the region. The report will look to:

benchmark the north's performance in innovation against other OECD regions;

take forward the debate on key aspects of innovation policy and governance;

establish a framework on which subsequent monitoring and evaluation of policies can be based; and

develop recommendations for national and regional-level actors to improve the regional innovation system.

The review will look at the innovation strategies of each of the three regions individually, and include site visits from international experts. However, it will also look at how common approaches and collaborations across the whole of the north may better capitalise on existing assets for the benefit of the northern economy as a whole. The study will also specifically address whether the north has specific needs vis-a-vis the rest of the UK.

The report will provide recommendations to national, regional and local institutions (in both the public and private sectors) on how to improve the efficacy of the regional innovation system.

Timescales

A final report on innovation in the north of England is expected to be submitted to the OECD's Territorial Development Policy Committee in June 2008. It is due for publication in autumn 2008.

Planning: Consultation Papers

My honourable friend the Minister for Housing (Yvette Cooper) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

During the Summer Recess, the Government will issue consultation papers on proposals to reduce the Secretary of State’s involvement in casework; streamline the arrangements for tree preservation orders; and transfer a wider range of appeals from the Secretary of State to the Planning Inspectorate. These proposals will take forward commitments made in the White Paper, Planning for a Sustainable Future (Cm 7120). In addition, the Government will issue a consultation paper on a possible amendment to Section 237 of the Town and Country Planning Act, to improve the implementation of regeneration projects by removing an impediment to the use of land once construction has finished. Copies of these papers will be made available in the Libraries of both Houses.

Planning: Tall Buildings

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Iain Wright) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

In conjunction with my colleague the Minister for Culture, Creative Industries and Tourism, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, I would like to bring to the attention of the House the guidance note on tall buildings prepared jointly by English Heritage and the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE), which is published today. This updates and supersedes previous guidance published in 2003 and reflects changes to the planning system since that time.

The Government's aim is to ensure local planning authorities are getting the right developments in the right places, which we consider to be a fundamental part of creating places where people will want to live and work, now and in the future. Recent reforms to the planning system have helped to reinforce this message, making it clear that all new development should be of good quality and designed in full appreciation of its surroundings and context. Tall buildings, in the right places and appropriately designed, can make positive contributions to our cities.

The Government therefore welcome this updated guidance, which will assist local planning authorities when evaluating planning applications for tall buildings, including, importantly, the need for effective engagement with local communities. It also places a greater emphasis on the contribution that design can make to improving the character and quality of an area. It offers good practice guidance to a range of stakeholders in relation to tall buildings in the planning process, provides practical advice on achieving well-designed solutions in the right places, and is capable of being material to the determination of planning applications.

Copies of the documents are being placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Regional Development Agencies: Annual Report and Accounts

My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Competitiveness (Stephen Timms) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I have today laid before Parliament the annual reports and accounts for 2006-07 for the eight regional development agencies (RDAs) outside London. Copies have been placed in the House Library.

The annual report and accounts for the London Development Agency are presented to the Mayor of London rather than to Parliament. I shall provide a copy to the House Library when these are available.

Also published today are the RDAs' reported outputs for 2006-07. These results are evidence that the RDAs continue to play a valuable role in improving the economic performance of the English regions and, through working with their partners, the RDAs are making a real difference to the individual regional economies concerned. The figures cover the number of jobs created and safeguarded; the number of people assisted to get a job; the amount of brownfield land brought back into use; the number of businesses created; the number of businesses assisted to improve their performance; the number of people assisted in their skills development; and the amount of public and private sector regeneration infrastructure investment levered, all as a result of RDA activity.

Press releases on the outputs have been issued in each region. Copies of the output results have been placed in the House Library, and are also available on the website of the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform at www.berr.gov.uk/regional/regional-dev-agencies/rda-performance/page24205.html.

Secure Training Centres: Physical Restraint

My right honourable friend the Minister of State (David Hanson) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I announced a review of restraint in juvenile secure settings to the House on 12 July (Official Report, cols. 1714-22). The Ministry of Justice and the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) have joint responsibility for the review.  My right honourable friend the Member for Stretford and Urmston (Beverley Hughes) will be the lead Minister for the DCSF.

My right honourable friend and I are in the process of appointing an independent chair to lead the review and a further announcement in relation to this will be made as soon as possible.

The broad terms of reference for the review are as follows:

it will encompass policy and practice on the use of restraint across a range of juvenile secure settings including secure training centres (STC), secure children’s homes (SCH) and young offender institutions (YOIs).

It will review and make recommendations to Ministers upon:

the operational efficacy,  safety, (including medical safety), and ethical  validity of restraint methods, in juvenile secure settings, including physical control in care (PCC)—the system of restraint used only in secure training centres—and the circumstances in which they may be used;

the system of training provided to staff using restraint in juvenile secure settings, including how such training is monitored, reviewed and accredited;

the arrangements for cross-departmental knowledge-sharing on use of restraint and behaviour management across a range of juvenile secure settings including STCs, SCHs and YOIs;

the respective responsibilities of the Ministry of Justice, the Department for Children, Schools and Families, the Youth Justice Board, Her Majesty’s Prison Service and individual providers of secure children’s homes and other relevant institutions in relation to the safety and effectiveness of restraint including clarification of the approval methods for restraint techniques;

the responsibilities of local safeguarding children boards in relation to the safety of restraint in their area;

whether the arrangements in place to record and monitor the use of restraint and the arrangements for sharing and analysis of information relating to deaths, injuries and warning signs exhibited following restraints are adequate in all juvenile secure settings;

the review will be able to call for evidence from any interested party to assist in the compilation of recommendations to Ministers; and

the review will report to Ministers within six months of the appointment of the Chair.

Senior Salaries Review Body

My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has today received the third triennial report from the Senior Salaries Review Body on Parliamentary Pay and Allowances.

The Government plan to publish the report in the autumn, followed shortly thereafter by consideration by both Houses in the normal way.

The Government are grateful for the work of Sir John Baker and his committee.

Taxation: Business Tax Reforms

My right honourable friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Jane Kennedy) has made the following Written Statement.

The Treasury has today published a discussion paper entitled Business Tax Reforms—Capital Allowances Changes. Copies of the document are available in the Vote Office and the Libraries of the House.

Taxation: Small Businesses and Settlements Legislation

My honourable friend the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Angela Eagle) has made the following Written Statement.

The Government acknowledge the judgment given by the House of Lords in the Jones v Garnett (Arctic Systems) case.

The Government are committed to maintaining fairness in the tax system. The case has brought to light the need for the Government to ensure that there is greater clarity in the law regarding their position on the tax treatment of “income-splitting”.

Some individuals use non-commercial arrangements (arrangements that they would not reasonably enter into with an arm’s-length third party) to divert income (which would, in the absence of those arrangements have flowed to them) to others. That minimises their tax liability, and results in an unfair outcome, increasing the tax burden on other taxpayers and putting businesses that compete with these individuals at a competitive disadvantage.

It is the Government's view that individuals involved in these arrangements should pay tax on what is, in substance, their own income and that the legislation should clearly provide for this. The Government will therefore bring forward proposals for changes to legislation to ensure that this is the case. In the mean time, HMRC will apply the law as elucidated by the House of Lords and will be providing guidance in due course.

The Government would not want commercial arrangements to be caught by any change to legislation. Consultation should help to ensure this.

Transport: Strengthening Local Delivery

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport (Ruth Kelly) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

The Government published a draft Local Transport Bill on 22 May for public consultation and pre-legislative scrutiny (Cm 7043). The package of measures included new and enhanced responsibilities for the traffic commissioners as part of a new bus punctuality performance regime, and in relation to the approval of bus “quality contracts” schemes.

The consultation paper on the draft Local Transport Bill highlighted that performing these new functions successfully is likely to require a different mix of skills and expertise from the existing core functions of the traffic commissioners and their support staff. It indicated that we were therefore considering whether the proposed new functions would be best delivered within the existing traffic commissioner structures, or whether further modifications could better deliver the desired outcomes.

The draft Local Transport Bill also includes proposals to encourage stronger transport governance in the six English metropolitan conurbations outside London, including changes to local transport planning. The consultation paper indicated there would be further consultation about local transport plans this summer.

I am today publishing two consultation documents. First, Strengthening Local Delivery—Modernising the Traffic Commissioner System explores the functions and responsibilities of the traffic commissioners in more detail and proposes the creation of a Board of Traffic Commissioners which would be responsible for ensuring that both the goods vehicle and bus sectors get the attention and resource they deserve.

In particular, the board would champion bus passengers' interests and complaints about the punctuality and reliability of local bus services.

The proposals seek to ensure that the traffic commissioner system is well placed to deliver the proposed new bus functions, alongside its existing responsibilities. The proposed board will also oversee the overall performance of the traffic commissioner system with an enhanced, centralised administrative support network to facilitate bus punctuality monitoring, ensuring that resources are focused on the greatest problem areas.

Secondly, Local Transport Planning: The Next Steps considers the statutory basis of local transport planning. It also sets out non-legislative proposals for reporting progress and distributing funding, related to local transport planning during the next three years.

Copies of both consultations have been placed in the Libraries of the House.

I would also like to announce that from 1 August 2007, operators of heavy goods vehicles and public service vehicles who hold a licence in more than one traffic area will be allocated a lead traffic commissioner who will take decisions on all applications relating to their licences. This change is an important milestone in our implementation of the operator licensing reform agenda announced in December 2006. The Government's new proposals for reform of the traffic commissioner structure are entirely consistent with this initiative.

UKvisas: Annual Report

My honourable friend the Minister of State for Borders and Immigration and Minister for the West Midlands (Liam Byrne) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The UKvisas annual report for 2006-07 will be published on 8 August and I will place copies in the Libraries of both houses. The report will also be made available on the UKvisas website.

Visas: VFS

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The report of the independent investigation into the breach of data security in the VFS online UK visa application facility, operated through VFS websites in India, Nigeria and Russia, has been laid before Parliament today, together with the Government’s response. It is also available on the UKvisas website at www.ukvisas.gov.uk.

I record my appreciation for the independent investigator’s prompt, full and thorough investigation. I am satisfied that the facts have been correctly established and that the conclusions are sound. Our priority has been to understand what happened in this case so that UKvisas and its partners can learn important lessons. The report enables them to do so. I can accept all the recommendations.

I note the independent investigator’s finding that, despite vulnerabilities in the commercial partner’s online application facilities from its launch in 2005 until it was closed in May 2007, there is no evidence that data from VFS websites in India, Nigeria and Russia have been misused or visas wrongly issued. The websites in question will remain closed.

I am publishing with the report my response to the investigator's recommendations. The investigator has found that since May 2007, VFS and UKvisas have taken the issue seriously and applied significant resources to identifying weaknesses and putting into place improved skills and oversight. I shall ensure a continuation of this joint effort in line with the investigator’s findings.

I welcome the investigator’s finding that the global contracts recently concluded with two commercial partners have improved consistency in the partnership programme and are more detailed in their scope. They provide a sound basis for full implementation of the investigator's recommendations. UKvisas will take all necessary steps to ensure the new contracts are implemented rigorously in partnership with VFS and CSC, to the benefit of the effectiveness and efficiency of the visa process.