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Written Statements

Volume 704: debated on Tuesday 14 October 2008

Written Statements

Tuesday 14 October 2008

Animal Procedures Committee

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

In accordance with Section 20(5) of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, I have today laid before the House the committee’s annual report for 2007. Copies are available in the Vote Office. Among other things the report includes:

the work carried out by the committee’s sub-committees;

better regulation advice on personal licensing and mandatory training;

better regulation advice on the release criteria for GA animals; and

better regulation: summary report of the APC Working Group on the Ethical Review Process.

The report concludes with the committee’s work plan for 2008.

Bank Recapitalisation

My honourable friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am today revising the Debt Management Office's (DMO) 2008-09 financing remit to raise £37 billion to facilitate bank recapitalisation. The £37 billion will be raised through:

£30.0 billion in additional gilt sales (taking total gilt sales to £110.0 billion in 2008-09); and

£7.0 billion in additional Treasury bill sales (taking the contribution to financing of Treasury bills in 2008-09 to +£6.1 billion and the planned Treasury bill stock at end-March 2009 to £23.7 billion).

The planned increase in gilt sales will be split by maturity/type as follows:

£21.0 billion of additional short-dated conventional gilts (taking total issuance to £46.0 billion) including the launch on 13 November 2008 of a new, current coupon, gilt maturing on 7 December 2011 (with a long first dividend period);

£7.0 billion of additional medium-dated conventional gilts (taking total issuance to £19.8 billion);

£1.0 billion of additional long-dated conventional gilts (taking total issuance to £25.2 billion); and

£1.0 billion of additional index-linked gilts (taking total issuance to £19.0 billion).

Seven additional gilt auctions will be scheduled, five of short-dated and two of medium-dated conventional gilts. The DMO has committed not to add any further gilt auctions in the third quarter of this financial year in the event of a further remit revision in the 2008-09 Pre-Budget Report.

The maximum size of conventional gilt auctions will be increased from £4.0 billion to £5.0 billion (cash). The revised gilt auction calendar to the end of 2008 is shown below.

The DMO also plans to supplement sales at auctions with a number of sales of gilts by mini-tenders, which are operations conducted directly with gilt-edged market makers by the DMO's dealing desk.

The first such operation in this programme is being announced today to take place on Monday 20 October 2008, for £1.0 billion (nominal) of 4 per cent Treasury stock 2009, for settlement on Tuesday 21 October 2008.

Other mini-tender operations are planned for 41/4 per cent. Treasury gilt 2055 in the week commencing 17 November, and for 11/4 per cent. Index-linked Treasury gilt 2055 in the weeks commencing 3 November and 1 December 2008.

Gilt auction calendar to the end of 2008

Gilt auctions to end-2008 (£nom)

Currently scheduled

Additional

Thu 16 Oct

4 ½% 2013 (£3.75 billion)

Tue 21 Oct

4 ¼% 2011 (£4.75 billion)

Thu 23 Oct

5% 2018 (£3.0 billion)

Tue 28 Oct

New IL 2032

Thu 30 Oct

4% 2016

Tue 04 Nov

4 ¾% 2030

Tue 11 Nov

4 ¾% 2015

Thu 13 Nov

New December 2011

Thu 20 Nov

4 ½% 2019

Tue 25 Nov

0 ¾% IL 2047

Thu 27 Nov

5% 2012

Tue 02 Dec

4 ¼% 2049

Tue 09 Dec

New IL 2032

Thu 11 Dec

4 ½% 2013

Thu 18 Dec

New December 2011

This revision to the DMO's remit does not take account of any other changes to the Government's forecasts of the public finances. These forecasts will be updated in the Pre-Budget Report. An updated remit, incorporating the changes announced today, will be published, as usual, after the Chancellor's Statement.

This revision to the DMO's financing remit is being made in accordance with paragraph 5.18 of the published remit which provides that:

“Any aspect of this remit may be revised during the year, in light of exceptional circumstances and/or substantial changes in the following:

the Government's forecast for the gilt sales requirement;

the level and shape of the yield curve; and

market expectations of future interest and inflation rates; and market volatility”.

Under the terms of its operational notice, the DMO is not obliged to give more than one hour's notice of such an operation, but in this case, it is pre-committing to the week(s) in which the intended operations will take place, and also commits to give a minimum of 24 hours’ notice of the actual size and timing of the planned tenders at the relevant time. Such decisions will be taken in the light of market feedback and conditions at the time.

Banking: Iceland

Today, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills (John Denham) has made the following Written Statement.

Acting on the advice of the Bank and the FSA, my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer last week took action to protect the retail depositors in three Icelandic banking operations in the UK: Icesave, a UK-based branch of Landsbanki; Heritable, a UK-based banking subsidiary of Landsbanki; and Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander, a UK-based banking subsidiary of Kaupthing Bank. Using powers under the Banking (Special Provisions Act) 2008, retail deposits in Heritable and Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander have been transferred to ING Direct. Savers’ money is safe and secure. The Chancellor has also guaranteed retail deposits in Icesave in full.

The Treasury and the Financial Services Compensation Scheme are working with the Icelandic authorities and their deposit insurance scheme to ensure that depositors in Icesave are paid back as quickly as possible. The Bank of England has also provided a short-term secured loan of up to £100 million to the London branch of Landsbanki, to help ensure an orderly wind down and maximize the returns to UK creditors. The Government have also frozen the funds and financial assets held by Landsbanki. This is a precautionary measure to protect UK economic interests and we are continuing to work closely with the Icelandic authorities to ensure a fair process for UK creditors.

Over the past few days, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) has been seeking information from higher education institutions about whether they have deposited money in these Icelandic banks.

Universities are independent charitable bodies, and take their own banking and investment decisions. But the HEFCE has a responsibility to keep under review the financial health of higher education institutions that receive public funding.

The HEFCE has informed the Government that there are 12 universities which held deposits with Icelandic banks that have recently entered into administration. The total amount deposited was around £77 million.

Clearly, this is a serious matter for each of these universities, and officials from HM Treasury are engaging with them and the HEFCE about their concerns. However, it should be noted that the HEFCE has concluded that no university is at risk as a result of its exposure to Icelandic banks. Certainly no university faces a level of exposure that would raise questions about its continuing solvency. Students, businesses, charities and others may deal with universities with exactly the same level of confidence as before. The HEFCE will be on standby to provide advice and expertise to any institution affected by these problems.

It is important that the funding council is able to hold full and candid discussions with universities about their financial affairs. For this reason, its policy, which the Government support, is not to disclose information about individual universities.

My right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Liam Byrne) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Over the past few days, the Cabinet Office has been working actively to determine the economic situation some charities may find themselves facing.

Only a small fraction of a total of £56 billion-worth* of investment assets held by general charities* is invested in Icelandic banks.

As agreed at a meeting between Ministers and charity representatives on Friday 10 October, the Cabinet Office is working with ACEVO, NCVO, CFDG and CAF to ascertain the full extent of investment assets affected by the position of Icelandic banks.

We are working closely with the Charity Commission, the sector’s regulator, to support charities which have deposits in Icelandic banks. We are also discussing directly with affected charities their concerns.

Acting on the advice of the Bank and the FSA, my right honorable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer last week took action to protect the retail depositors in three Icelandic banking operations in the UK: Icesave, a UK-based branch of Landsbanki; Heritable, a UK-based banking subsidiary of Landsbanki; and Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander, a UK-based banking subsidiary of Kaupthing Bank. Using powers under the Banking (Special Provisions Act) 2008, retail deposits in Heritable and Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander have been transferred to ING Direct. Savers’ money is safe and secure. The Chancellor has also guaranteed retail deposits in Icesave in full. The Treasury and the Financial Services Compensation Scheme are working with the Icelandic authorities and their deposit insurance scheme to ensure that depositors in Icesave are paid back as quickly as possible.

The Bank of England has also provided a short-term secured loan of up to £100 million to the London branch of Landsbanki, to help ensure an orderly wind down and maximize the returns to UK creditors. The Government have also frozen the funds and financial assets held by Landsbanki. This is a precautionary measure to protect UK economic interests and we are continuing to work closely with the Icelandic authorities to ensure a fair process for UK creditors.

We are working with HM Treasury to do what we can to support those organisations with investments in Icelandic banks, and ensure they are in the strongest possible position to protect their investments.

In the light of recent global economic events, the Government are more determined than ever to support the third sector through the upcoming months and years. We are committed to ensuring that charities are supported in resolving any short-term issues they may face as well as supporting them in the long term.

We are working closely with sector leaders, representing small and large organisations, and Ministers will co-chair, alongside Stuart Etherington, an upcoming NCVO sector-wide summit to tackle upcoming issues.

A survey released by the commission this morning has revealed that one in four charities has already put in place measures to deal with the economic downturn. The commission is keen to provide further advice and guidance for charities and trustees via its helpline and website.

We are confident that the sector is in better shape than ever before to meet the challenges ahead. Its income from Government has doubled over the past 11 years to a total of £11 billion a year.

I will continue to represent the interests of the sector at the newly founded National Economic Council, which will consider the impact of the current financial crisis on the economy as a whole.

* General charities are defined as “private non-profit making bodies serving persons”. This excludes sacramental religious bodies or places of worship, UK Civil Society Almanac (2008).

* UK Civil Society Almanac (2008).

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.

A number of Icelandic banks went into administration in the middle of last week. It quickly became clear that many local authorities were among those who had deposits in those banks. The Government’s first priority has been to do everything we can to help local authorities, along with other creditors, to get back the money which they had deposited in the banks. In parallel, my department has been working closely with the Local Government Association to ensure that individual authorities which are experiencing severe short-term difficulty get assistance to help them through this period. We are doing this to protect individuals, communities and the local services on which the most vulnerable people in our society depend.

We have put in place a five-point plan:

my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer froze the UK assets of Landsbanki last Wednesday, to ensure that local authorities and other creditors are treated fairly; and an HM Treasury delegation was sent to Iceland on Friday to discuss ways in which deposits could be protected;

in relation to the banks in administration in the UK—Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander and Heritable—we are working to ensure that deposits are recovered as quickly as possible; and the Local Government Association has opened discussions with the administrators, Ernst and Young;

the Local Government Association agreed with the Government last week that it would undertake an urgent analysis of the effects of the situation on individual local authorities, to provide a full picture of the impact on local government. As part of that exercise, which is nearing completion, the LGA has asked any local authority which is facing severe short-term difficulties to let it know as a matter of urgency. My right honourable friend the Minister for Local Government and my honourable friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury met the Local Government Association last Thursday, and we will be meeting again this week. My honourable friend the Minister for Policing met the Association of Police Authorities on the same day;

we have established a joint rapid response unit with the LGA and Improvement and Development Agency—which is already operational—to provide sector-led support to authorities facing severe short-term difficulties. The Government and the LGA will agree an appropriate set of ways to assist authorities in that position; and have agreed that we will look at the issues facing each authority on a case-by-case basis; and

the rapid response unit now has a team of experts in local authority financial management and Treasury management in place, ready to go immediately into any authorities which need that assistance. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary is similarly ready to provide support for police authorities.

Our guidance to local government on investments makes clear that “the general policy objective is that local authorities should invest prudently the surplus funds held on behalf of their communities”. It emphasises that “priority should be given to security and liquidity” and goes on to say that “it will be appropriate to seek the highest rate of return consistent with the proper levels of security and liquidity”. This guidance appears to have been adhered to.

Many authorities have already publicly stated that any risk is not a threat to frontline services—but a small number of authorities may have specific problems, which is why we have put in place support and expertise which is immediately available. No local authority has told the LGA that it is in such short-term difficulty that it cannot pay the wages of its staff.

The Government and international partners have already acted to support stability of the banking system. The LGA and the Government encourage all councils to continue managing their finances prudently and sensibly in difficult times.

My honourable friend the Minister for Policing met the Association of Police Authorities last week and my right honourable friend the Home Secretary is keeping in close touch with the situation to ensure that the steps we are taking are applied as necessary to police authorities.

We will continue to monitor the situation closely and to take appropriate action.

This set of actions should be seen in the context of the wider action taken last week by my right honorable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Acting on the advice of the Bank and the FSA, my right honorable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer last week took action to protect the retail depositors in three Icelandic banking operations in the UK: Icesave, a UK-based branch of Landsbanki; Heritable, a UK-based banking subsidiary of Landsbanki; and Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander, a UK-based banking subsidiary of Kaupthing Bank. Using powers under the Banking (Special Provisions Act) 2008, retail deposits in Heritable and Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander have been transferred to ING Direct. Savers’ money is safe and secure. The Chancellor has also guaranteed retail deposits in Icesave in full. The Treasury and the Financial Services Compensation Scheme are working with the Icelandic authorities and their deposit insurance scheme to ensure that depositors in Icesave are paid back as quickly as possible. The Bank of England has also provided a short-term secured loan of up to £100 million to the London branch of Landsbanki, to help ensure an orderly wind down and maximize the returns to UK creditors. The Government have also frozen the funds and financial assets held by Landsbanki. This is a precautionary measure to protect UK economic interests and we are continuing to work closely with the Icelandic authorities to ensure a fair process for UK creditors.

My honourable friend the Minister of State, Department of Health (Ben Bradshaw) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Acting on the advice of the Bank and the FSA, my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer last week took action to protect the retail depositors in three Icelandic banking operations in the UK: Icesave, a UK-based branch of Landsbanki; Heritable a UK-based banking subsidiary of Landsbanki; and Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander, a UK-based banking subsidiary of Kaupthing Bank.

Using powers under the Banking (Special Provisions Act) 2008, retail deposits in Heritable and Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander have been transferred to ING Direct. Savers’ money is safe and secure. The Chancellor has also guaranteed retail deposits in Icesave in full. The Treasury and the Financial Services Compensation Scheme are working with the Icelandic authorities and their deposit insurance scheme to ensure that depositors in Icesave are paid back as quickly as possible. The Bank of England has also provided a short-term secured loan of up to £100 million to the London branch of Landsbanki to help ensure an orderly wind down and maximize the returns to UK creditors. The Government have also frozen the funds and financial assets held by Landsbanki. This is a precautionary measure to protect UK economic interests and we are continuing to work closely with the Icelandic authorities to ensure a fair process for UK creditors.

There are no strategic health authorities, primary care trusts or NHS trusts with any Exchequer funds (ie, taxpayers’ money) residing in Icelandic banks.

There is one organisation, Hammersmith Hospitals NHS Charities, which has £1.65 million of charitable funds deposited in the Icelandic bank, Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander. Hammersmith Hospitals NHS Trust has now merged with Imperial College NHS Trust, but the charity arm is still going through the merger process. The trust is working with its legal team and the Financial Services Compensation Scheme to ensure it protects these deposits.

In addition, there are two NHS foundation trusts with money deposited in Icelandic bank accounts.

The Christie Hospital NHS Foundation Trust released a statement on Friday 10 October confirming that it has a deposit of £7.5 million with the Icelandic bank, Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander. £1 million of this is NHS money and £6.5 million charity money. The Christie Hospital has taken legal advice and is working closely with the Financial Services Authority to ensure that it protect its deposits.

Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust also has a deposit of £1 million with the Icelandic bank, Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander. All of this deposit is NHS money and the trust is working with its legal team to ensure that it protects its deposits.

The Christie Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust have confirmed that in neither case will any potential loss give rise to concerns as to their ability to continue to provide services.

Broadcasting: Digital Switchover

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Andy Burnham) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Digital switchover is the process by which the UK’s analogue television signals are switched off and replaced by digital television signals. Switchover will take place ITV region by ITV region. The next region to switch will be Border in November 2008.

In order to help those who may otherwise have difficulty in switching to digital, the Government, with the BBC, have established the digital switchover help scheme which provides digital equipment, installation and after-care support to those who:

are aged 75 or over;

have a significant disability; or

are blind or partially sighted.

The help scheme is funded by the BBC (£603 million of licence fee income has been ring-fenced for this purpose).

The scheme costs a subsidised £40 fee for those who are eligible, but is free to those who are eligible and also on some form of income-related support.

After further consideration, I have concluded that it would be reasonable to take the view that anyone resident in a care home is likely to have difficulty in making the switch to digital TV, and therefore should be eligible for help under the scheme. I therefore propose to extend the scheme eligibility criteria so as to include everyone normally resident in a care home. For the purposes of the help scheme, someone will be considered normally resident if they have been in a care home for six months or more, or if a care home manager expects them to have been resident for more than six months by the end of the eligibility period.

It is not possible to estimate accurately the number of additional people who will now be eligible for the help scheme as there are no centrally held figures on care home residents across the UK. However, a large number of those in care homes will already qualify under the existing eligibility criteria and our estimate is that the proposed change will bring about 100,000 new people within the help scheme.

Caribbean: Development Strategy

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development (Douglas Alexander) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I have placed in the Libraries of both Houses a communications booklet outlining the UK’s regional development strategy for the Caribbean 2008-13.

Achieving a higher rate of growth is vital for the Caribbean’s development. While the Caribbean has the natural resources and talent to be a global player, economic growth has been slow in recent decades. The region must diversify and become more competitive in order to prosper and achieve its significant potential.

Preferential trade agreements are coming to an end under international law, but new trade agreements, such as the European Partnership Agreement with the EU, provide significant opportunities for the region to grow and diversify.

The UK’s new regional development strategy for the Caribbean focuses on:

growth, including seizing opportunities arising from the new trade agreements such as the EPA; and

mitigating the risks to growth posed by climate change, which exacerbates natural disasters and affects communities dependent on tourism and fishing, and violent crime which costs lives and discourages investment.

Machinery of Government

My right honourable friend the Prime Minister (Gordon Brown) has made the following Statement in the House of Commons.

I recently announced a series of changes to ministerial responsibilities. I have today placed in the Library of the House the Cabinet Office paper Machinery of Government: Economy, Business, Climate Change, Energy and Environment which sets out these changes in more detail.

Sustainable Communities Act 2007

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 would like to inform Parliament that we have issued today an invitation to local authorities to make proposals which they consider would encourage the improvement of the economic, social or environmental well-being of local areas. The invitation falls under Section 2(1) of the Sustainable Communities Act 2007. A copy of the invitation has been deposited in the Library of the House.

Regulations relating to the Act were made on 9 October 2008 and laid before Parliament on 13 October 2008. They come into force on 3 November 2008. The regulations include further details about the procedure to be followed in relation to the submission of proposals under the Act. In particular, they require a local authority, before making any proposal, to establish or recognise a panel of representatives, consult it about the proposal, and to have regard to any guidance issued. The SI No. is 2008/2694.

Statutory guidance relating to the Act was published on 9 July 2008, as an annex to statutory guidance on the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 (Creating Strong, Safe and Prosperous Communities: Statutory Guidance).

The text of the formal invitation letter is as follows:

Sustainable Communities Act 2007: First Invitation To Local Authorities To Submit Proposals

Dear Colleague

The Sustainable Communities Act 2007 creates a useful opportunity for local authorities to propose new ways to improve local neighbourhoods for their residents, visitors and businesses. I am formally inviting local authorities under Section 2(1) of the Sustainable Communities Act to submit their proposals.

This initiative is part of the drive to empower citizens and communities; others are highlighted in the White Paper Communities in Control: real people, real power which was published in July this year.

The principal aim of the Act is to promote the sustainability of local communities by encouraging the improvement of the economic, social or environmental well-being of the authority’s area, including participation in civic and political activity.

It begins from the principle that local people know best what needs to be done to promote the success of their area, but that sometimes they need central government to act to enable them to do so. It provides a channel for local people to ask central government, via their local authority, to take such action and for central government to work in co-operation with the Local Government Association (LGA), which represents the interests of local authorities, in making it happen.

I hope this invitation leads to a productive dialogue between central and local government and local communities, and that this will lead to innovative suggestions on how to improve the sustainability of local communities and what central government can do to help.

Local authorities have until 31 July 2009 to put forward proposals. All proposals should be sent to the LGA which has been appointed as the “selector” under the terms of the Act. I enclose a letter from the director for empowerment at CLG, Stuart Hoggan, which gives further details about the process for submitting and progressing proposals.

I look forward to working closely with the LGA to identify those proposals on which government can best assist local authorities and local communities in promoting the sustainability of local areas in ways which benefit local people in tangible ways.

A copy of the letter from the director for empowerment at CLG has been deposited in the Library of the House.