Skip to main content

Written Statements

Volume 702: debated on Thursday 26 June 2008

Written Statements

Thursday 26 June 2008

Coroners (Amendment) Rules 2008

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

I have today laid before Parliament the Coroners (Amendment) Rules 2008. These rules amend Rule 43 of the Coroners Rules 1984 regarding coroners’ powers to make reports to prevent future deaths, and introduce a new rule to allow coroners to share relevant information with Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) to enable them to carry out their statutory functions.

The amended Rule 43 places a new statutory duty on organisations receiving reports from coroners to respond within 56 days. Coroners must share reports and responses with those, including bereaved families, to whom they have assigned “interested person” status. They must also share reports and responses with the Lord Chancellor and they may share reports and responses with other interested organisations. Reports and responses will be centrally collated for the first time so that lessons learnt can be disseminated widely where appropriate and there is national oversight more generally.

A new rule will require coroners to notify LSCBs of any child death which is reported to them, and over which they have jurisdiction, and allow them to share information (such as reports from post-mortem examinations and documents given in evidence at an inquest) with LSCBs. This will enable LSCBs to better meet their statutory duty to conduct child death reviews and will contribute to the fulfilment of their statutory obligations more generally.

The rule was developed in partnership with the Department for Children, Schools and Families, which is responsible for legislation regarding LSCBs.

Diplomatic Immunity: Serious Offences

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

In 2007, 20 serious offences allegedly committed by people entitled to diplomatic immunity were drawn to the attention of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Serious offences are defined as offences that would, in certain circumstances, carry a penalty of 12 months or more imprisonment. Some 24,000 people are entitled to diplomatic immunity in the United Kingdom.

The table below lists those foreign missions whose diplomats allegedly committed serious offences and the type of offence from 2003-07.

2003

Activities Inconsistent with Diplomatic Status (Bribery)

Saudi Arabia

1

Driving under the Influence of Alcohol

Algeria

1

Bolivia

1

Bulgaria

1

Commonwealth Secretariat

1

Italy

1

Kuwait

1

Mexico

1

Other *

1

Russia

1

Rwanda

1

Sierra Leone

1

Ukraine

1

Indecent Assault

South Africa

1

Morocco

1

Possession of an Offensive Weapon

Libya

1

2004

Arranging Sham Marriages

Nigeria

1

Driving under the Influence of Alcohol

Angola

1

Austria

1

Luxembourg

1

Mozambique

1

Serbia and Montenegro

1

Spain

1

Indecent Assault

Congo

1

Saudi Arabia

1

Indecent Assault on Child

Saudi Arabia

1

Robbery and Assault

Angola

1

2005

Actual Bodily Harm

Jordan

1

Assault (Domestic Violence)

Saudi Arabia

1

Dangerous Driving

Turkey

1

Driving under the Influence of Alcohol

Angola

1

Egypt

1

Ghana

1

Lebanon

1

Peru

1

Russia

1

Saudi Arabia

1

Harassment

Turkey

1

Theft (Shoplifting)

Egypt

1

Equatorial Guinea

1

Zambia

1

Theft and Robbery (of Motor Vehicle, Driving without Insurance)

South Africa

1

2006

Attempted Robbery

South Africa

1

Deception (Going Equipped to Commit)

Nigeria

1

Driving under the Influence of Alcohol

Kazakhstan

2

Belarus

1

Côte d’Ivoire

1

Kuwait

1

Malawi

1

Oman

1

Saudi Arabia

1

South Africa

1

Driving without Insurance

Pakistan

1

Failure to Stop for Police/Driving without Insurance and Licence

Kazakhstan

1

Robbery

South Africa

1

Theft (Obtaining Property by Deception)

Ghana

1

2007

Dangerous Driving

Russia

1

Domestic Assault/Actual Bodily Harm

South Africa

1

Driving without insurance

Ghana

1

Driving without insurance and driving under the influence of alcohol

Malawi

2

Driving under the influence of alcohol

Belarus

1

Georgia

1

Hungary

1

Israel

1

Italy

1

Other *

1

Kazakhstan

1

Kuwait

1

Moldova

1

Nigeria

1

Peru

1

Saudi Arabia

1

Turkmenistan

1

Misrepresentation (obtaining insurance by deception)

Cote D'Ivoire

1

Robbery and Actual Bodily Harm

Guyana

1

* Details have been withheld because the number of diplomatic personnel in the mission(s) concerned is/are so small that disclosure would lead to the identification of the individual concerned. This would breach the data protection rights of that individual, in particular, the first data protection principle; namely, that personal data should be processed fairly. This is because the offences are only alleged to have been committed and have not been proven in a court of law. In these circumstances, Section 40(2) and (3) of the Freedom of Information Act confer an absolute exemption on disclosure of this information.

Diplomatic Missions: Unpaid Non-Domestic Rates

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

The majority of diplomatic missions in the United Kingdom pay the national non-domestic rates requested from them. They are obliged to pay only 6 per cent of the total national non-domestic rates (NNDR) value, which represents payment for specific services such as street cleaning, lighting, maintenance and fire services. The total amount outstanding from all diplomatic missions is approximately £424,700.51. However, as at 31 March 2008, the missions listed below owed over £10,000 in NNDR. One additional diplomatic mission, which owes £10,000 or more in NNDR, has made arrangements with the Valuation Office Agency to clear their outstanding debt and has not been included in this list.

Country

Amount (£)

Algeria

67,503.84

Zimbabwe

66,993.48

Cameroon

44,124.69

Bangladesh

37,555.49

Cote d’Ivoire

37,056.99

Malawi

27,773.58

Ukraine

18,535.85

Tunisia

17,212.08

Tanzania

11,380.76

Total

328,136.76

Diplomatic Missions: Unpaid Traffic Fines

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

In 2007, there were 6,241 recorded outstanding parking and other minor traffic violation fines incurred by diplomatic missions and international organisations in the United Kingdom. These totalled £656,275. In March this year, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office wrote to all diplomatic missions and international organisations concerned, giving them the opportunity to either pay their outstanding fines or appeal against them if they considered that the fines had been issued incorrectly. As a result of subsequent payments totalling £27,300 and formal appeals lodged, there remains a total of 5,093 (£538,745) unpaid fines for 2007. The table below details those diplomatic missions and international organisations that have outstanding fines totalling £1,000 or more.

Diplomatic Mission/International Organisation

Number of fines outstanding (excluding Congestion Charge)

Amount in £

Sudan

696

75,100

Saudi Arabia

382

38,730

Kazakhstan

280

28,180

China

243

26,230

UAE

225

24,670

France

195

20,920

Guinea

168

18,220

Egypt

167

18,140

Turkey

140

15,360

Russia

130

14,160

Libya

132

13,450

Cyprus

118

12,450

Nigeria

97

11,430

Afghanistan

108

11,010

Cote d’Ivoire

72

8,170

Romania

78

8,100

Greece

78

7,940

Georgia

69

7,610

Hungary

69

7,100

Malaysia

64

6,960

Mozambique

64

6,830

Tunisia

62

6,700

Uzbekistan

62

6,550

Zambia

63

6,310

Pakistan

53

6,260

Jordan

55

5,990

Algeria

67

5,820

Iran

56

5,690

Senegal

55

5,290

Oman

45

5,090

Ukraine

47

4,880

Ghana

42

4,140

Kenya

35

3,940

USA

36

3,660

Bangladesh

31

3,530

Liberia

31

3,480

Germany

32

3,250

Iraq

27

3,090

Bulgaria

29

3,070

Albania

28

2,840

Lithuania

28

2,740

North Korea

31

2,590

Equatorial Guinea

25

2,440

Lesotho

18

2,330

Yemen

22

2,260

Ethiopia

21

2,210

Tanzania

19

2,170

International Maritime Org.

20

2,010

Poland

19

2,000

Belgium

19

1,900

Kuwait

18

1,900

Syria

17

1,810

Zimbabwe

17

1,760

Swaziland

16

1,740

Thailand

17

1,730

Honduras

17

1,660

Mauritius

13

1,580

Morocco

14

1,510

Italy

14

1,460

South Africa

12

1,460

Jamaica

16

1,420

Cameroon

13

1,350

Kyrgyzstan

13

1,260

Slovak Republic

12

1,220

Vietnam

9

1,090

Mongolia

10

1,060

Moldova

11

1,060

Botswana

10

1,020

Malawi

9

1,020

Totals

4,933

520,100

Congestion Charge

The number of outstanding fines incurred by diplomatic missions in the United Kingdom for non-payment of the London congestion charge since its introduction in February 2003 until 14 May 2008 was 175,482. The table below shows the 10 diplomatic missions with the highest value of outstanding fines.

Mission

No of fines outstanding

Value (£)

USA

23,188

2,347,205

Japan

13,062

1,334,560

Russian Federation

12,765

1,308,720

Germany

11,213

1,149,050

Nigeria

11,096

1,120,650

Sudan

7,984

793,300

Kenya

5,084

502,630

Tanzania

4,654

461,080

India

3,949

409,360

South Africa

4,098

406,480

Energy: Renewables

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise, and Regulatory Reform (John Hutton) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

As promised in my Statement of 23 January 2008, I am publishing today a consultation on the ways the UK could increase renewable energy in order to meet the UK’s proposed share of the EU target to achieve 20 per cent of all Europe’s energy from renewable sources in 2020.

Increasing renewable energy is a key element of our strategy for delivering our two key goals of tackling climate change and ensuring that the UK has a secure supply of affordable energy. Measures set out in the 2007 energy White Paper will already triple our use of renewables from 1.5 per cent overall energy in 2006 to 5 per cent by 2020, but we recognise that we need to do more. Investment in renewable generation will help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels at a time of rising prices, particularly oil and gas. This consultation will inform the UK renewable energy strategy to be published in spring 2009, once the final EU directive implementing the target for EU renewable energy has been agreed and the UK share decided. The consultation will run for three months and we will publish the responses this autumn.

Currently, the proposed UK share of the EU target is to achieve 15 per cent of our energy—electricity, heat and transport—from renewables by 2020. Our negotiating position has been to ensure that the targets contained in the draft directive are credible, by giving member states enough flexibility to deploy renewables in the most cost-effective manner. This need for credibility applies to other key parts of the draft directive, including the 10 per cent renewable transport target for biofuels, so the UK has been pushing hard for robust sustainability criteria to be included.

The challenge that a target of 15 per cent renewable energy represents should not be underestimated. It may require a 10-fold increase in renewable generation in the UK from 2006 levels. This might mean, for example, needing up to an extra 4,000 onshore and 3,000 offshore wind turbines, a major challenge for the supply chain and UK business. We are also conducting a feasibility study on the range of tidal power options in the Severn Estuary that could provide up to 5 per cent of UK electricity. The consultation seeks views on how we can meet the 15 per cent target in the most cost-effective way. Regardless of our final approach, success will require action right across the economy, from industry and investors, but also from the devolved Administrations, local and regional bodies and consumers.

This consultation outlines possible measures to facilitate a rapid expansion of renewables. It sets out ways to address the significant barriers and encourage the enormous level of investment required, signalling the business opportunities that this transformation could offer. The measures are wide ranging and include:

extending and raising the level of the renewables obligation to encourage up to 30 to 35 per cent of our electricity to come from renewable sources by 2020;

introducing a new financial incentive mechanism to encourage a very large increase in renewable heat, including in homes and buildings;

delivering more effective financial support for heat and electricity microgeneration technologies in homes and buildings;

helping the planning system to deliver, by agreeing a clear deployment strategy at regional level similar to the approach established for housing;

ensuring appropriate incentives for new electricity grid infrastructure and removing grid access as a barrier to renewable deployment;

exploiting the full potential of energy from waste, by considering further restrictions on landfilling biomass, as far as is practical;

requiring all biofuels to meet strict sustainability criteria, to limit adverse impacts on food prices, or other social and environmental concerns;

encouraging the development of new renewable technologies, by ensuring effective support particularly where the UK has the potential to be a market leader; and

maximising the benefits for UK business, by providing a clear long-term policy framework, working with regional development agencies to tackle key blockages, considering support for specific technologies and addressing skills shortages.

In the short term, the impact of our measures on utility bills is likely to be almost zero; however, such rapid action will not come without some associated cost. The extent of these rises will depend on the cost of alternatives, particularly fossil fuels, and we can limit their effect, both on energy bills and fuel poverty by promoting an essential, ongoing role for energy efficiency. As part of this, Defra will publish a consultation in the autumn looking at energy efficiency across all sectors with a particular emphasis on households, and within that, what we can do to improve the efficiency of our existing housing stock.

We are committed to developing the most cost-effective approach to delivering the scale of renewable energy required. To ensure we have investigated all the options, we are also consulting on the role that using provisions in the draft EU renewables directive relating to trading could play in reducing the overall cost to the UK of meeting the target.

There are costs associated with increasing renewable energy. However, we believe they are worth paying for. As the Stern review concluded, the costs of tackling climate change could be far higher in the longer term than the costs of taking action now.

The business benefits from an expansion in renewable energy in the UK could include up to 160,000 new jobs generated in the renewable energy sector by 2020. The Government's ambition is to ensure that as many of these jobs are based in the UK as possible. Annual revenues from marine energy for example could be as much as £900 million by 2020. The consultation seeks views on how we can ensure the UK receives the maximum benefit from the rapid expansion of the renewable energy sector and will be completed by a revised manufacturing strategy which we hope to bring out in the autumn.

The Climate Change Bill reinforces our commitment to tackle climate change and the energy White Paper 2007 sets out our broader commitments to save energy, develop cleaner energy supplies and to ensure secure supplies of energy. This consultation and the policies that will follow sit together with those on nuclear and carbon capture and storage (CCS) to facilitate a diverse mix of low carbon energy sources. Our position on nuclear is clear, and in support of our position as a world leader in CCS we will making further announcements on the UK CCS demonstration project and publishing a consultation on the regulation of CCS next week. The consultation seeks views on the further regulatory steps we could take to prepare for deployment of CCS.

A copy of the UK Renewable Energy Strategy Consultation has been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses and published on the BERR website.

Housing and Regeneration Bill: Contingency Fund

My right honourable friend the Minister for Housing and Planning (Caroline Flint) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Department for Communities and Local Government has obtained approval for an advance from the Contingencies Fund to allow the early recruitment and appointment of the boards and senior executives with support arrangements, for the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) and the Tenant Services Authority (TSA) before Royal Assent.

The Homes and Communities Agency will bring together the current work and programmes of the Housing Corporation, English Partnerships and a significant part of the Department for Communities and Local Government’s own housing programmes.

The Tenant Services Authority will encompass the current regulatory functions of the Housing Corporation and implement the recommendations of the Cave review.

Bringing forward this expenditure through a contingencies fund advance will accelerate the introduction of the new agencies so they can begin to deliver their programmes more expeditiously. It will also enable efficiency savings to be achieved earlier and will provide significant reductions in public spending.

An earlier advance of £930,000 was approved to cover the costs of recruiting the chairs and chief executives of HCA and TSA as well as their salary and support costs. Parliamentary approval for additional resources of £430,000 for these new services will be sought in the 2008-09 Winter Supplementary Estimate for the Department for Communities and Local Government. Pending that approval and Royal Assent of the Housing and Regeneration Bill, urgent expenditure estimated at £430,000 will be met by repayable cash advances from the Contingencies Fund.

Housing: Home Loss Payments

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

The Secretary of State has today laid regulations to update the home loss payments thresholds in Section 30 of the Land Compensation Act 1973 (as amended). Home loss payments are paid at a rate of 10 per cent of the market value to owner-occupiers who are displaced from their homes as a result of compulsory purchase or certain housing orders. They are paid in addition to the compensation awarded for the value of the property taken, which is based on the open market value of the property together with disturbance payments. Home loss payments are subject to maximum and minimum thresholds. Tenants receive a flat rate equal to the minimum payment to owner-occupiers.

With effect from 1 September 2008, the maximum payment to owner-occupiers displaced from their home will be increased from £44,000 to £47,000 and the minimum payment will be increased from £4,400 to £4,700. The flat-rate will be increased from £4,400 to £4,700.

The period of two months between laying the regulations and commencement will give acquiring authorities reasonable notice to revise their budgets for compensation. This is similar to the notice period given in previous years for revisions to the home loss payments thresholds.

Identity and Passport Service: Annual Report and Accounts

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Identity (Meg Hillier) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Identity and Passport Service annual report and accounts 2007-08 has been laid before Parliament today and will be published shortly.

Local Government

My honourable friend the Minister for Local Government (John Healey) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

On 2 April 2008, I laid before Parliament a Written Ministerial Statement on provisional payments under the three-year Local Authority Business Growth Incentives scheme (LABGI). I am now in a position to announce the final payments, which will be made shortly. These payments include reward for years 1 and 2 of the scheme and new payments for year 3 of the scheme, distributing a total of approximately £296 million to 371 local authorities in England.

Authorities were given until 16 May 2008 to comment on the methodology outlined on 2 April 2008. The department received 28 responses, and the Valuation Office Agency received 59 inquiries directly. Most queries sought clarification of how the calculations had been performed or about data which had been used, timing of payments or confirmation that their proposed allocation was correct, while a few responses raised specific points on the methodology.

We have considered all responses received, and I am content that the published methodology has been correctly applied. I do not, therefore, propose to amend the methodology as published in the technical note (www.local.communities.gov.uk/finance/labgi/technote0708.pdf) or the way in which it has been applied. However, in a small number of cases, the proposed payment has been adjusted in response to a specific point raised by an authority or in relation to a previous overpayment.

Details of the payments to be made to each qualifying authority under the Government’s proposals can be found at: www.local.communities.gov.uk/finance/labgi/seconddtmn0708.pdf.

As a result of the adjustments made, approximately £101 million remains to be distributed and this will be retained as a contingency, as I explained on 2 April 2008 (Official Report, col. 56 WS).

Police: Northern Ireland

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Shaun Woodward) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

I have received the annual report for 2007-08 of the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland which is being laid before Parliament today as a Command Paper.

Copies of the report are available from the Library of the House.

Proceeds of Crime Act 2002

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

I am pleased to announce that the sixth annual report of the appointed person under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 has been laid before Parliament today. The appointed person is an independent person who scrutinises the use of the search power introduced to support the measures in the Act to seize and forfeit criminal cash.

The report gives the appointed person’s opinion as to the circumstances and manner in which the search powers conferred by the Act are being exercised. I am pleased that the appointed person has expressed satisfaction with the operation of the search power and has found that there is nothing to suggest that the procedures are not being followed in accordance with the Act.

From 1 April 2007 to the end of March 2008, more than £63 million in cash was seized by police and HM Revenue and Customs Officers under powers in the Act. These sums are subject to forfeiture in the magistrates’ court. These powers are a valuable tool in the fight against crime and the report shows that the way they are used has been, and will continue to be, closely monitored.

Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office

Parliament is to be notified that HM Treasury has provided approval for a change in the 2007-08 budgetary arrangements of Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office, to reflect a transfer of voted expenditure from administration to capital.

RCPO’s administration budget in Resource Departmental Expenditure Limit (DEL) will be decreased by £150,000 from £20,936,000 to £20,786,000, and capital DEL will be increased by £150,000 from £1,800,000 to £1,950,000.

The change will have no effect on the department’s overall DEL, or on its net cash requirement. The impact on resources and capital is set out in the following table.

ChangeNew DEL £’000

Voted

Voted

Total

Resource

-150

38,759

38,759

of which:

Administration

-150

20,786

20,786

Budget

-150

20,186

20,186

Near Cash in RDEL

Capital

150

1,950

1,950

Less Depreciation

600

600

600

Total DEL

0

40,109

40,109

† Depreciation, which forms part of resource DEL, is excluded from total DEL since capital DEL includes capital spending, and to include depreciation of these assets would lead to double counting.

The change in the capital provision within total DEL arises from some elements of the provision for an IT transition project, which had been budgeted originally as administration expenditure, being reclassified as capital spend.

Terrorism: Rail and Underground Passenger Screening

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

During 2006, in response to the continuing terrorist threat to the rail network, the Department for Transport carried out passenger screening trials to test the ability of available equipment and dogs to detect explosives, or traces of explosives, in an operational environment.

The London Underground and National Railways (LUNR) passenger screening trials took place at five locations over a six-month period, with the full co-operation of the British Transport Police, Network Rail, London Underground and other stakeholders. Public attitudes surveys were conducted in parallel with the trials. Since then, we have been considering the results of the trials with key stakeholders and the implications for rail security policy.

I am publishing a summary report of the trials on the DfT website, together with five detailed reports on the public attitudes research. Copies have also been placed in the Libraries of the House. We are not publishing detailed reports on the individual trials for security reasons, due to the sensitivity of the information within them.

At the same time, the British Transport Police is announcing enhancements to its current screening capability through the use of X-ray equipment and explosives detection dogs capable of screening moving passengers. These enhancements will build on the BTP’s existing measures to screen a proportion of passengers and their bags, with minimal delay.

The enhancements are a direct response to the conclusions from the trials which showed that:

screening equipment and dogs can be effective in the railway environment. However, given the very large passenger flows and thousands of entry points on the UK Rail and Underground networks, 100 per cent airport-style screening is currently not feasible using today's technology; and

the public recognise the threat to the rail network, and are broadly supportive of the need for security measures, provided that they are proportionate to the threat. However, the public would be unlikely to accept major delays to journeys, and want to ensure that personal privacy is protected.

We will continue to work with the BTP and operators to assess the effectiveness and impact of these new measures and will use this evidence, and that from elsewhere in the UK and abroad, to develop further ways of keeping the travelling public secure using proportionate measures.