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Written Statements

Volume 703: debated on Thursday 10 July 2008

Written Statements

Thursday 10 July 2008

Carbon Emissions: New Cars

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

The Government are today publishing a consultation document and accompanying impact assessment on the European Commission proposal for a regulation on the CO2 emissions of new cars, putting in place a framework to encourage industry to develop greener, more fuel efficient cars.

The UK is urging the Commission to adopt a longer-term target of 100 grams of CO2 per kilometre, as part of the Government's wider strategy to address the issue of climate change. This proposal has the potential to deliver a cut in CO2 emissions from new cars of about 40 per cent over the next 12 years, and by 2020 could reduce the running costs for consumers buying new cars by about £500 a year, a particularly important consideration at a time of rising oil prices.

The European Commission's own proposals for a target of 130 grams of CO2 per kilometre by 2012 are expected to deliver annual CO2 savings of just over 6 million tonnes a year in the UK by 2020. Achieving the UK-proposed target of 100 grams of CO2 per kilometre by 2020 would save an additional 5 million tonnes of CO2 by 2020. In total, this is equivalent to around a third of the total projected CO2 savings from domestic transport, or around 2 per cent of the UK's current overall CO2 emissions.

Where the Government have a view on aspects of the proposed regulation, we set this out in the consultation document. The UK strongly supports a move to mandatory CO2 targets for new cars; this would be better for the environment and better for consumers. We would like to see a strong environmental outcome and for this reason we have been taking the lead at the European level for a longer-term target of 100 grams of CO2 per kilometre by 2020 to be added to the regulation.

We also want to avoid unfair competitive distortions between car manufacturers. We support the Commission's approach for setting CO2 targets for individual car manufacturers, and we also welcome the proposed derogation for manufacturers who only sell cars in small volumes. We believe that it is also important to add a provision to the regulation to ensure that “niche” manufacturers (those that only make a narrow range of vehicle types) while being subject to challenging targets, are not unfairly penalised.

We are seeking views over the coming months on our underlying analysis and negotiating position via a public consultation. This consultation closes on Friday 3 October 2008, but in the interim the Government will continue their discussion and negotiations at the European level, during which we may have to take further decisions on our negotiating position. We therefore encourage early responses from stakeholders.

Copies of the consultation document and accompanying impact assessment are being sent to the House Library.

Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority: Annual Report and Accounts

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Maria Eagle) 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 2007-08 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 2008 shows net liabilities of £1.29 billion.

In 2007-08, the authority received 53,317 applications for compensation and resolved 65,248. The number of cases outstanding at 31 March 2008 was 74,656. The proportion of cases decided within 12 months was 63.97 per cent.

Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform: Staff Training Costs

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Consumer Affairs (Gareth Thomas) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I answered the honourable Member for Fareham’s Parliamentary Question on 12 June 2008 (Official Report, col. 414W) on BERR departmental training. We said that the staff training costs incurred by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform’s agencies were £1,714,000 in the past 12 months and £8,443,000 for the previous five years. This figure was also quoted in my letter of 12 June 2008, to the honourable Member for Fareham. A copy of this letter was placed in the Libraries of the House.

These costs were taken from the department’s consolidated resource accounts for the years in question, which for 2007-08 were in draft at the time of my reply. Furthermore, the consolidated resource accounts do not include the expenditure of Companies House, whose accounts are published separately. Using updated figures, staff training costs for the department’s agencies were £1,999,000 for 2007-08, and £8,774,000 for the previous five years.

EU: Informal Energy Council

I represented the UK at the Informal Energy Council that took place in Paris on 4 and 5 July. This was held back to back with an informal Environment Council, reflecting the priority the French are giving to the climate change and energy package during their presidency. Both meetings were chaired by Jean-Louis Borloo, French Minister for the Environment and Energy. The European Parliament rapporteurs for the various elements of the package were also present.

The main focus of discussion was the renewables directive, including specific debates on biofuels and the flexibilities required for the EU to achieve the 20 per cent renewable energy target in a cost-effective way. National experiences were also exchanged on energy efficiency, and Ministers received a presentation on energy security by Claude Mandil, former head of the IEA, commissioned by the French to produce a report to inform the forthcoming EU strategic energy review.

During the debate on renewables, there was a large degree of consensus on the importance of meeting the targets cost effectively. There was also widespread recognition that this can only be achieved with some level of exchange between member states allowing countries with potentially expensive domestic renewables resource to buy them more cheaply elsewhere in the EU. There was general agreement among Ministers that a UK/Germany/Poland proposal for a system of exchange between member states represented a promising way forward.

A short debate on biofuels followed. I used the opportunity to highlight the key findings of the Gallagher review. There was a discussion on the perceived link between the increased use of biofuels and food prices. It was emphasised that the 10 per cent objective in the draft directive is for the use of renewable energy in transport, and not a 10 per cent share of biofuel in transport fuel by 2020; so electric vehicles could also play a part in achieving this target. Several member states agreed that the proposed sustainability regime proposed for biofuels should be more demanding in order to ensure genuine sustainability of biofuels and highlighted the importance of the availability of second generation biofuels in this regard.

Earlier we had a debate on energy efficiency with representatives of NGOs, business and MEPs. There were several presentations on what individual MSs were doing domestically (I spoke about the UK’s carbon reduction commitment scheme) and a general agreement that more effort had to be put into energy efficiency both at national and EU level.

Immigration: Securing the UK Border

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Jacqui Smith) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Today my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband) and I are announcing the final stage of the UK’s first global review of visa regimes.

Britain thrives as a society and economy which is open for business and tourism to people from around the world, but only on the basis that there are clear and effective ways to distinguish legitimate from illegitimate travellers. This year we will introduce some of the biggest ever changes to strengthen Britain’s border security as we complete implementation of a system of triple checks: stronger overseas checks and wider pre-arrival screening; tougher checks at the UK border itself; and strong new measures within the UK—against illegal immigration, organised crime and other threats.

We believe our tough checks abroad, working with foreign Governments, are among the most important. Overseas controls start with fingerprint visas, pre-arrival watch list checks and officers stationed overseas at key crossing points. As part of these overseas defences, our visa waiver test helps us determine whether our visa regimes are in the right places. The test was announced in March 2007. Travel from every country beyond the European economic area and Switzerland was measured against a range of criteria including illegal immigration, crime and security concerns. The test has been taken forward in close collaboration with other departments across Whitehall. We have now reached the final stage of the test.

Our assessment found that there was a strong case for introducing a visa regime for a number of currently visa-free countries, based on the current level of risk posed to the UK by sufficient numbers of their nationals, or travellers claiming to be such. A visa regime is a simple but very effective immigration, crime and security control measure.

We recognise that we have historic, economic and political ties with the countries being examined; the introduction of a visa regime is a significant step and a decision we do not take lightly. For this reason, we will now enter a period of detailed dialogue with the Governments concerned to examine how risks can be reduced in a way that obviates the need for a visa regime to be introduced. This activity will last for six months. During this period, countries identified will need to demonstrate a genuine commitment to put into effect credible and realistic plans, with clear timetables, to reduce the risks to the UK, and begin real implementation of these plans by the end of the dialogue period.

The countries we are working with through the mitigation process are Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Lesotho, Malaysia, Mauritius, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela. Promising and constructive dialogue has already begun with a number of countries, but more is required.

The test also indicated that a number of changes were possible for countries currently with visa status. Over the next six months, we will study the options further to see how the visa process can be more closely calibrated to the risks nationals from these countries pose, with consequent benefits for legitimate travellers.

We expect the first consequent changes from the test to be introduced in 2009.

The British Government are determined to operate a firm but fair immigration policy. They give a high priority to treating all foreign nationals coming to or present in the UK with dignity and respect, and the highest legal standards. However, they expect all visitors to the UK to play by the rules. The UK will always welcome genuine visitors, whether business, tourist, student or family, but will continue to take all steps necessary to protect the security of the UK.

Judicial Appointments Commission

My right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The 2007-08 annual report and accounts for the Judicial Appointments Commission will be laid before Parliament today.

I welcome the publication of the second annual report of the Judicial Appointments Commission. The commission plays a vital role in the selection of judges and in making recommendations about judicial appointments to me as Secretary of State and Lord Chancellor.

I am glad that the report reflects the hard work and dedication of the commissioners and staff under the leadership of the chairman, Baroness Prashar. In particular, the report details how the commission has built on the foundations of it first year of operation by reviewing and improving their selection processes as well as striving to encourage a wider pool of applicants.

I look forward to working with the commission in the coming year as it seeks to build on these achievements.

Northern Ireland: Youth Justice Agency

My honourable friend the Minister of State for Northern Ireland (Paul Goggins) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

I have placed copies of the Youth Justice Agency’s annual report and accounts for 2007-08 in the Libraries of both Houses.

This is the agency’s fifth annual report since its inception on 1 April 2003. It achieved seven of its nine key performance targets and 15 of its 18 development objectives.

Planning: Town Centres

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Department for Communities and Local Government (Hazel Blears) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am today publishing a consultation on proposals to improve Planning Policy Statement 6: Planning for town centres (PPS6). Copies of the consultation are being placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Busy town centres, with a wide range of shops, are vital to communities large and small, rural and urban. For more than a decade, government planning policy has been designed to ensure the vitality and viability of town centres is promoted.

Today, there is more retail development in and around our town centres than at any time during the past 10 years. But we cannot be complacent, particularly in the current economic climate. Evidence shows that there is scope to refine the policy and make it more effective.

In last year’s planning White Paper, Planning for a Sustainable Future, the Government committed to consulting on changes to PPS6. In this consultation, we are setting out our proposals in detail.

The proposals reinforce the town-centre-first approach to ensure that development continues to take place in town centres and promotes their vitality, viability and character. We will retain the sequential test which requires developers to justify why they cannot build in the centre before they seek to build out of town.

The proposals remove the need test for proposals outside town centres—which has been shown to be a blunt tool—and introduce a new and broader impact test to take better account of economic, social and environmental factors.

The proposals also link design quality and climate change considerations to the impact test, ensuring that developments are better designed and greener.

Alongside these changes, the consultation makes clear that policy will continue to reinforce the principle that development should be accessible by a range of transport modes; that it should promote greater consumer choice and retail diversity; and, that it should encourage investment and job creation in disadvantaged areas.

Our amendments do not include any specific policy proposals for taking forward the proposed planning competition test for large grocery stores which was recommended by the Competition Commission in its final report on The supply of groceries in the UK market investigation (April 2008). The Government will be responding separately on this shortly.

The proposed changes I am setting out today will play a part in helping our town centres thrive for years to come. I welcome comments by 3 October 2008.

Prisons: Offender Compact

I wish to update the House on the compact with offenders announced in the prison policy update paper of January 2008 and Written Ministerial Statement of 31 January (Official Report, col. 37WS). The compacts I propose will emphasise the need for offenders to accept the responsibilities of their sentence, in return for which they may be entitled to some benefits during the sentence when the obligations are met. Today, I am announcing the commencement of four pilots, with the aim in due course of implementing such compacts across the prison estate and for offenders on community orders.

In order to ensure appropriate behaviour, offenders can earn access to certain privileges, particularly during their time in custody. These advantages must be earned and offenders must take responsibility for their behaviour and take the opportunities for reform offered to them through commitment, hard work, and delivery against the aims of their sentence plans.

The existing incentives and earned privileges (IEP) scheme in prisons is a fundamental part of achieving this. It categorises offenders according to their behaviour into basic, standard and enhanced level, and these levels directly equate to the earned privileges they then have access to. This has been a valuable policy which has played an important part in securing order and control in prisons. There is now a need to build on this and to ensure that a consistent, firm approach is developed alongside it which sees offenders being required to commit to their own reform.

Under the new proposals, offenders will not only need to demonstrate basic compliance, but must show commitment beyond this in achieving sentence planning objectives and in making reparation to the community wherever the opportunity arises. It is important that the public understand and have confidence in the basis on which prisoners are granted enhanced privileges in custody. The scheme I am announcing will deliver this objective.

On 21 July 2008, three pilots will commence in prisons and one in the community, all in the West Midlands. The pilots will introduce a standard format for the compacts for evaluation. I also propose an “end of custody” report for short sentence prisoners, which will summarise the offender's time in custody based on effort and achievement, and provide those who have shown commitment to their own improvement with evidence to take into the community. The pilots will run for an initial six months with the aim of rolling out across all prisons and probation next year.

In this way, the custody pilots will build on the existing IEP scheme, which currently includes the use of a compact as good practice, in order to:

establish a set of core principles which can be applied in all cases;

explore the potential for a mandatory compact format;

explore the scope for a link between sentence planning and the IEP;

consider what we can offer offenders without a sentence plan, in particular the under-12 months population, and how we link this to the concept of a compact where rights have to be earned;

ensure robust review processes are in place;

test the potential for information from the compact to be transferred from prison to the community on release on licence, in particular for those in custody not subject to offender management;

test the potential for “end of custody reports”, linked to the compact for short-sentenced offenders to present to potential employers on release, which recognise positive behaviour and engagement in constructive activity; and

consider the resource impact of the pilot findings and assess affordability.

The community pilots will use induction processes and existing examples of induction agreements with offenders in the community to:

establish a set of core principles and good practice for the community induction process for use in agreeing compacts with offenders;

explore the potential incentives that can be feasibly implemented in the community, including increasing supervision for poor compliance and recognising successful completion of licences and orders; and

test what information from custody is of value in the community and how this could best be presented/transferred, in particular for those offenders not currently subject to end-to-end offender management.

Schools: Meals

I am pleased to announce that the School Food Trust, in partnership with LACA (Local Authority Caterers’ Association) has released provisional findings from the third annual survey of take-up of school meals, reporting on the 2007-08 financial year.

In primary schools take-up in 2007-08 was 43.6 per cent, an increase of 2.3 percentage points on the value reported for 2006-07 of 41.3 per cent.

In secondary schools, take-up in 2007-08 was 37.2 per cent, a decrease of 0.5 percentage points on the value reported for 2006-07 of 37.5 per cent.

The values reported for 2005-06 were 42.3 per cent in primary schools and 42.7 per cent in secondary schools.

These figures illustrate that the number of primary school children eating school meals rose by roughly 88,000 from 2006-07 to 2007-08. The number of secondary school pupils eating school meals fell by roughly 38,000 over the same period. This is partly explained by a 2 per cent drop in numbers of pupils on roll in secondary schools.

Average meal price in primary schools in 2007-08 was £1.66, compared to £1.63 reported for 2006-07, an increase of 1.8 per cent. Average ingredient costs were 61 pence per meal, 7 per cent higher than in 2006-07 (57 pence). Average labour costs were 1.08 per meal, very similar to the 1.09 reported for 2006-07.

In secondary schools, the average meal price is based on the value of a free school meal, which in 2007-08 was £1.78, compared to £1.72 reported for 2006-07, an increase of 3 per cent. Average ingredient and labour costs as a percentage of total service expenditure were 36.5 per cent and 48.6 per cent respectively.

Where take-up in schools had increased, local authorities believed the change to be related to (percentage given for primary and secondary services, respectively):

marketing of school meals to pupils (79 per cent, 70 per cent);

schools having food policies (74 per cent, 61 per cent);

marketing of school meals to parents (73 per cent, 48 per cent);

provision of more healthy options (59 per cent, 34 per cent); and

improvement in dining facilities (57 per cent, 48 per cent).

In addition, in relation to secondary school catering provision, 54 per cent of LAs said that reorganisation of arrangements for meals was important (eg shorter queues, changes in timetable), as was the introduction of a stay-on-site policy (56 per cent).

Where take-up in schools had decreased, local authorities believed the change to be related to (percentage given for primary and secondary services, respectively):

provision of more healthy options resulting in more children bringing packed lunches (74 per cent, 80 per cent);

parents providing packed lunches (64 per cent, 24 per cent);

increases in the price of a school meal due to inflation (56 per cent, 54 per cent);

increases in the price of a school meal due to use of better quality ingredients (55 per cent, 53 per cent); and

number of pupils buying school meals (47 per cent, 65 per cent).

In addition, in secondary schools, the main reason for a decline in take-up was pupils buying meals elsewhere in response to the provision of more healthy options (91 per cent). Shorter lunch hours were also seen as a deterrent (68 per cent), as was organisation of meal provision (62 per cent).

Future support for improving take-up

As part of our drive to improve school lunch provision, we announced in 2006, a new specific capital fund of £150 million in this spending review for authorities with the greatest need to build new kitchens in schools where currently there are none. Fifteen authorities submitted bids totalling some £46.9 million and I am now pleased to announce that all of those bids have been successful. This means that schools in West Sussex, Swindon, North-East Lincolnshire, Lincolnshire, North Somerset, Dorset, Wigan, Harrow, Hillingdon, Plymouth, Buckinghamshire, Bournemouth, Northamptonshire, Kingston upon Thames and Worcestershire will have new school kitchens over the next three years.

I am also pleased to announce that the remainder of this £150 million specific fund for school kitchens will be made available to all local authorities which submit plans to increase school lunch take-up by building or improving school kitchens and upgrading dining facilities and systems. This means that all authorities and schools will have the opportunity to improve school lunches and increase take-up through better preparation facilities and more attractive dining areas.

Finally, we have decided to provide the School Food Trust with an extra £6 million over the next three years to promote healthy food to young people and raise take-up. This is on top of the £21 million funding settlement the School Food Trust received in March.

School Lunch Take-up Figures

Background

The School Food Trust carries out a survey in April of each year to estimate the take-up of school meals nationally. The trust asks the catering officers in 150 local authorities (LAs) to provide information on take-up and highlight the factors that they believe have most influenced the change in take-up in the previous year. This year’s survey has been conducted in close collaboration with LACA (the Local Authority Caterers Association) and in consultation with other interested stakeholders.

To date, 105 responses have been received from local authorities. The figures quoted above are provisional, based on responses from 70 LAs covering school-meal provision in primary schools and responses from 59 LAs covering school-meal provision in secondary schools, as clarification of information is ongoing. A full report of the survey results will be published on the trust website in September 2008. The final report will include information nationally and by region on:

take-up of school meals;

changes in take-up between 2006-07 and 2007-08;

meal prices;

ingredient and labour costs;

factors felt to be responsible for changes in demand; and

kitchen facilities.

An interim report is available on the trust website at www.schoolfoodtrust.org.uk.

Notes

Take-up has been calculated using the same method as in previous years.

Primary figures include primary schools and special schools.

Data reported here relate to schools with catering provided by the local authority, either through an in-house catering service or using an LA-contracted private contractor.

The Government announced a five-point plan for school food in September 2006, including a new specific capital fund for authorities with the greatest need to build new kitchens in schools where currently there is none.

Capital for Kitchens

Ministers last autumn agreed to provide £150 million of targeted funding in this spending review period to fund this commitment. The 15 successful local authorities are:

West Sussex: £5.744 million;

Swindon: £2 million;

North-East Lincolnshire: £3.424 million;

Lincolnshire: £4.416 million;

North Somerset: £2.128 million;

Dorset: £3.52 million;

Wigan: £2 million;

Harrow: £5.888 million;

Hillingdon: £1.8 million;

Plymouth: £1.456 million;

Buckinghamshire: £1.384 million;

Bournemouth: £608,000;

Northamptonshire: £5.5 million;

Kingston upon Thames: £752,000;

Worcestershire: £6.304 million.

The remainder of the £150 million fund will be made available to local authorities which submit plans to increase school lunch take-up by building or improving school kitchens and upgrading dining facilities and systems. Further details will be published in due course.