Skip to main content

Written Statements

Volume 706: debated on Thursday 11 December 2008

Written Statements

Thursday 11 December 2008

Armed Forces: Defence Equipment

Statement

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

Since May 2008 the Ministry of Defence has been examining its equipment programme. The aims of the examination were to adapt to the rising cost of high-end defence equipment and to provide more support for current operations. The key conclusions I am announcing today help us meet these objectives; other aspects will be taken forward through our regular planning round, which will conclude next March. 

The work to date will bring the defence equipment programme more closely into balance.  Inevitably, this has required a reprioritisation of investment to ensure that we deliver those capabilities of the highest immediate urgency, while continuing to invest in capabilities needed to respond to future threats.  We remain committed to doing more for our people, here and on the front line—improving their support and welfare, pay, medical care, rehabilitation services and accommodation.

Support to current operations remains our highest priority.  Among the top priorities of our operational commanders are the provision of the right mix of protected patrol vehicles and additional helicopter capability. The recent announcement of nearly 700 more protected patrol vehicles for Afghanistan, at a cost of over £700 million, is evidence of our commitment to meet their requirements.  In addition to our core budget, the Government will continue to fund the net additional costs of operations from the Treasury reserve. Since 2001 we have received nearly £10 billion, over and above the core defence budget. 

As well as the protected mobility package, we have agreed with the Treasury a budget of a further £635 million in 2009-10 for other urgent operational requirements, with any expenditure over and above that being met initially by the reserve but repaid by the defence budget after two years. 

We undertook to inform Parliament about the major decisions emerging from our examination of the equipment programme as soon as we were able to do so.  The following are the key conclusions.

In May 2008 we announced the provisional selection of Piranha V, offered by General Dynamics (UK) Ltd, as the preferred design for the FRES utility vehicle.  Following a period of intensive negotiations with General Dynamics to address a number of commercial issues, it became clear to both parties that it would not be possible to reach agreement on the commercial conditions required to enable further progress on the basis of the current procurement strategy.  I have therefore decided that we should withdraw the provisional preferred bidder status of General Dynamics (UK).

Our examination of the equipment programme has, separately, considered the balance of investment and priority in the Army’s armoured vehicle programme.  We have concluded that, in the context of current operations, and bearing in mind the considerable recent investment in protected mobility, the highest priority should now be accorded to delivering the Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme and the FRES Scout vehicle as quickly as possible.  Against that background, we have decided to restructure the FRES programme, giving priority to FRES Scout over the FRES utility vehicle. Whilst this will mean a delay to the programme, we recognise the importance of the utility vehicle and are now looking at the best way to take this procurement forward.  General Dynamics (UK) will have an opportunity to compete in any future utility vehicle competition.

We have increased the number of helicopter airframes and hours available to our commanders in Afghanistan by around 60 per cent over the past two years, and will make a further significant increase in helicopter capacity in Afghanistan over the next two years. 

In addition to our planned battlefield helicopter procurements, we will be spending £70 million from the reserve to upgrade 12 Lynx Mark 9 helicopters with new engines, with the first aircraft available by the end of 2009. This will give commanders more helicopters able to operate effectively all year round in the hot and high altitude in Afghanistan, freeing up other aircraft for other tasks. Taken with the Chinook Mark 3 reversion, the additional planned Apache capability and the Merlins that we plan to move to Afghanistan once they have completed their mission in Iraq, this will deliver a significant increase in helicopter capability available to military commanders.

The new AgustaWestland Future Lynx helicopter will provide even greater operational capability when it comes into service, as planned, in 2014.

We have concluded that there is scope for bringing more closely into line the introduction of the joint combat aircraft and the aircraft carrier. This is likely to mean delaying the in-service date of the new carriers by one to two years.  We are in close consultation with the Aircraft Carrier Alliance on how this might best be done.  Construction is already under way and will continue. The programme will still provide stability for the core shipyard workforce, including 10,000 UK jobs.

We have also reviewed all the components of the MARS fleet auxiliary programme, and have concluded that there is scope for considering alternative approaches to its procurement which is likely to involve the deferral of the fleet tanker element. 

I have also instituted a review, to be led by Bernard Gray, to examine progress with implementing reforms through the MoD’s acquisition change programme and to make any further recommendations to secure better value for money in the delivery of major acquisition programmes. 

Any further significant changes to the equipment programme will be announced following the conclusion of the MoD’s current planning round in March. While that work continues, I intend to control new commitments carefully to ensure we do not restrict our flexibility unnecessarily, though this will not be allowed to hold up support to current operations or our other highest priorities.

Armed Forces: War Pensions

Statement

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Kevan Jones) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The new rates of war pensions and allowances proposed from April 2009 are set out in the tables below. The annual uprating of war pensions and allowances for 2009 will take place from the week beginning 6 April.

War Pensions Rates

Rates 2008

Rates 2009

(Weekly rates unless otherwise shown)

War Pensions

Disablement pension (100% rates)

officer (£ per annum)

7,571.00

7,952.00

other ranks

145.10

152.40

Age allowances

40%-50%

9.75

10.25

over 50% but not over 70%

14.90

15.65

over 70% but not over 90%

21.25

22.30

over 90%

29.80

31.30

Disablement gratuity

specified minor injury (min.)

924.00

970.00

specified minor injury (max.)

6,902.00

7,247.00

unspecified minor injury (min.)

381.00

400.00

unspecified minor injury (max.)

8,974.00

9,423.00

Unemployability allowance

personal

89.70

94.20

adult dependency increase

50.55

53.10

increase for first child

11.75

12.35

increase for subsequent children

13.80

14.50

Invalidity allowance

higher rate

17.75

18.65

middle rate

11.40

12.00

lower rate

5.70

6.00

Constant attendance allowance

exceptional rate

109.60

115.00

intermediate rate

82.20

86.25

full day rate

54.80

57.50

part-day rate

27.40

28.75

Comforts allowance

higher rate

23.50

24.70

lower rate

11.75

12.35

Mobility supplement

52.25

54.85

Allowance for lowered standard of occupation (maximum)

54.72

57.44

Therapeutic earnings limit

4,602.00

4,784.00

Exceptionally severe disablement allowance

54.80

57.50

Severe disablement occupational allowance

27.40

28.75

Clothing allowance (£ per annum)

187.00

196.00

Education allowance (£ per annum) (max)

120

120

Widow(er)s private

110.05

115.55

Widow(er)s (other ranks)

110.05

115.55

Widow(er) Officer (£ pa max)

6,779.00

7,118.00

Childless widow(er)s u-40 (other ranks)

26.36

27.68

Childless widow(er)s u-40 (Officer max £s pa)

6779.00

7118.00

Supplementary pension

73.64

77.32

Age allowance

(a) age 65 to 69

12.55

13.20

(b) age 70 to 79

24.10

25.30

(c) age 80 and over

35.75

37.55

Children's allowance

increase for first child

17.30

18.15

increase for subsequent children

19.35

20.30

Orphan's pension

increase for first child

19.70

20.70

increase for subsequent children

21.60

22.70

Unmarried dependant living as spouse (max)

107.70

113.20

Rent allowance (maximum)

41.50

43.60

Adult orphan's pension (maximum)

84.50

88.75

Census

Statement

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Kevin Brennan), has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Government propose that, subject to parliamentary approval, a census of population should be taken in England and Wales on 27 March 2011.

I am pleased to announce the publication of a White Paper Helping to Shape Tomorrow: The 2011 Census of Population and Housing in England and Wales [Cm 7513], which sets out the UK Statistics Authority’s detailed proposals for the census.

The White Paper is intended to promote public discussion of the proposals, which will affect every household and person in England and Wales.

The White Paper sets out the strategic aims for the census, explains the need for it, and deals with matters of public concern such as data security and confidentiality.

Government will use the information to form policy, to plan services for specific groups of people and, especially, to distribute resources effectively to local and health authorities to enable them to direct resources where they are needed.

The design for the new census builds upon the lessons learnt from the 2001 census, and takes account of the formal recommendations of the Treasury Select Committee, the Public Accounts Committee, the National Audit Office and the former Statistics Commission.

After a census rehearsal in October 2009 and consultation with the Welsh Assembly Ministers, the Government will lay before Parliament an Order in Council for approval in accordance with the Census Act 1920.

The White Paper is also being presented to the National Assembly for Wales.

Copies of the White Paper have been placed in the Libraries.

The White Paper is also available on the UK Statistics Authority website at www.ons.gov.uk/census/2011-census/2011-census-project/legislation/index.html.

Children: Children's Plan

Statement

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Ed Balls) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Government publish today the Children’s Plan one year on progress report, setting out progress made since the launch of the Children’s Plan a year ago. It celebrates the contribution made by those working with children and young people over the past year, takes stock of the challenges ahead and sets out next steps to achieve our ambitions for children and young people.

The Children and Young People’s Workforce Strategy, also published today, describes the way the Government will work with partners to develop and support everyone who works with children and young people and to improve quality and capacity across the workforce. It sets out the Government’s priorities for the development of individual sectors of the workforce and for reforms which need to influence everyone who works with children, young people and their families.

We also launch today Building Stronger Partnerships, a strategy for engaging employers in education, in response to the report of the National Council for Educational Excellence (NCEE).

Copies of these documents are available in the Libraries of both Houses and available electronically at www.dcsf.gov.uk/oneyearon.

EU: Competitiveness Council

Statement

My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Science and Innovation (Lord Drayson) has made the following Written Statement.

The following Statement provides information on the Competitiveness Council which took place in Brussels on 1 and 2 December. The research session of the council was held on 2 December and was chaired by Valérie Pécresse, Minister for Higher Education Research. The UK was represented by the Deputy Permanent Representative to the European Union.

Research Ministers agreed on a vision for the European research area (ERA) in 2020 aiming to help foster greater co-ordination of research activities across Europe, increase public and private sector investment in R&D and to facilitate the mobility of researchers in Europe. The vision paper envisages future European research efforts being more responsive to societal challenges, the networking of education, research and innovation stakeholders and R&D underpinning European competitiveness. The UK welcomed the emphasis in the vision on investment in research and innovation, especially in the current economic climate, as well as the emphasis on an ERA which encourages co-operation with countries outside the EU.

The council adopted council conclusions on joint programming—a new process to help identify research fields in which national research programmes could be co-ordinated on a voluntary basis and reduce fragmentation of research funding in Europe. The joint programming approach will be piloted in the field of neurodegenerative diseases. Council conclusions on international R&D co-operation, marine and maritime research and the global monitoring for environment and security (GMES) initiative were also adopted.

The council did not agree a general approach on the regulation for a Community legal framework for a European research infrastructure consortium (ERIC regulation) as consensus on the exemption of VAT and excise duties could not be reached. The dossier has been referred to the ECOFIN Council for consideration and will be taken forward under the Czech presidency in the first half of 2009. I am writing separately to the chairs of the scrutiny committees on this issue.

The council took note of a presentation from the Luxembourg and Portuguese Ministers on researcher careers and mobility issues, including encouraging the take-up of science and technology related subjects in school, work-life balance and social security and supplementary pensions. Member states are to consider these issues further in the Commission-chaired Steering Group on Human Resources and Mobility.

Over lunch, Ministers discussed the role of the European strategic forum for research infrastructures (ESFRI). There was broad agreement that ESFRI played a useful role in allowing member states to identify potential pan-European research infrastructures and to pull together consortia of interested parties to take these forward. There was little appetite to extend ESFRI's role in respect of helping to prioritise funding for research infrastructures or deciding on their location. On this latter point, there was broad agreement that decisions on location should be taken by the member states paying for the infrastructures and that these should be located where they would be most effectively used.

Under any other business, the council took note of updates from the Commission on the implementation of the strategic energy technology plan, work to establish revised cost estimates for ITER, the planned nuclear fusion research facility in France, and from the chair of the governing board of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT).

EU: Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council

Statement

My right honourable friend the Minister of State, Department of Health (Dawn Primarolo), has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council will meet on 16 and 17 December. The health and consumer affairs part of the council will be taken on 16 December.

Items on the main agenda are: adoption of council conclusions on health security; and council conclusions on public health strategies to combat neurodegenerative diseases associated with ageing and in particular Alzheimer's disease. The United Kingdom supports these conclusions.

The presidency also intends to provide a progress report on the proposal for a directive on cross-border healthcare followed by a debate for member states. There will also be a presentation by the European Commission on the recently published proposal for a council recommendation on European actions in the field of rare diseases, followed by an exchange of views.

Under any other business, the presidency and the Commission intend to provide information on the council high-level working party on public health on the health strategy; proposals for a regulation on the provision of food information to consumers; a directive with regard to variations to the terms of marketing authorisations for medicinal products; a proposal for a directive on the quality and safety of organ donations; a proposal for a recommendation on the safety of patients and the quality of health services, including the prevention and control of nosocomial infections; a Commission Green Paper on health professionals; information on events organised during the French presidency; the Commission's high level-group on health services and medical care; Commission communication on the future of pharmaceutical products and legislative proposals on pharmacovigilance, counterfeiting and information to patients; a proposal for a directive amending directives on the structure and rates of excise duty applied on manufactured tobacco; strengthening of co-operation between member states in the field of e-health; and the forthcoming work programme of the incoming Czech presidency.

Fishing: Trawlermen Scheme

Statement

My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Employment Relations and Postal Affairs, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Government ran the Icelandic Water trawlermen scheme between 2000 and 2002. This scheme made compensation payments to trawlermen who lost their livelihood following the cod wars in the 1970s. The Parliamentary Ombudsman found last year that some claimants under the scheme had received unfairly low payments, because of the rules on breaks in service, and recommended that my department review the eligibility criteria and scheme rules, to ensure they were consistent with the policy intention underlying the scheme.

We have now completed that review. I appreciate that this has taken longer than originally intended, but this is a complex issue and it is important to get it right.

I have concluded that we should run a new trawlermen scheme and that additional payments should be calculated on the basis of aggregate service on vessels that fished in Icelandic waters. This means that anyone with long service on Icelandic vessels who received significantly reduced payments under the previous scheme (because of a break in their service) should receive an additional payment. This will substantially reduce the impact of any gaps in service and better align the rules with the intention of the scheme.

We will shortly be consulting on the details of the new scheme. We also propose that: the qualifying test should be amended to require successful claimants to have at least two years’ aggregate service on Icelandic vessels during the period of the cod wars; interest should be added to the additional payments; consolatory payments of £200 should be made to successful claimants under the new scheme; the “Thessalonian” should be added to the list of Icelandic vessels for the new scheme; and the new scheme should be limited to existing claims only.

I expect the new scheme to be formally launched by the middle of next year, after we have consulted on the details and considered the views received. Around 1,000 trawlermen should receive additional payments under these arrangements, and the total cost of the new scheme should be less than £10 million.

Ministry of Justice: Autumn Performance Report

Statement

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

I have today laid before Parliament the Ministry of Justice autumn performance report 2008 (Cm 7525). The report sets out the past six months’ progress the Ministry has made against its departmental strategic objectives, value for money targets and public service agreements. The report will also be accessible on the Ministry’s website.

Olympic Games 2012: Transport

Statement

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

The department has today published a consultation paper on the designation of the Olympic route network (ORN). It sets out proposals for the roads that will form the ORN: a network of roads to be used by athletes, Games officials and the media during the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. The consultation closes on 19 March 2009.

For London, as for other recent host cities, the ORN is a vital part of plans for managing the transport challenge posed by one of the largest events that can take place in a country. The purpose of the ORN is to enable the safe, secure, and efficient transport of the athletes, Games officials and media who are central to the Games between venues and accommodation, while minimising the impact on residents, businesses and visitors. The commitment to have an ORN was included in our Olympic bid, and initial outline proposals for the network were included in the Olympic Delivery Authority’s Olympic transport plan, published in October last year.

The proposed network that is the subject of this consultation is the result of further detailed work led by the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), working closely with the Department for Transport, Transport for London, the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games and Paralympics Games, local highway authorities and other stakeholders.

We are taking forward this consultation now, more than three years in advance of the Games and with the support of the Mayor of London, because the experience of previous host cities shows the importance for a successful ORN of good preparation and early and effective communication with those who may be affected—including utilities, which typically plan their major works years in advance.

Following consideration of the responses to this consultation, we plan to designate the ORN in the summer of 2009. This is the first stage in a two-stage process to create the ORN. Designation by the Secretary of State will give the ODA the powers to implement temporary traffic management measures on the ORN.

The ODA will, in the second stage, consult widely on potential measures to deliver the best possible solution for the Games, the local area and the road network as a whole. Traffic management measures on the individual routes will be applied for the minimum time possible—in some cases they may only be needed for a few days. Many of the measures will be behind the scenes, such as improvements to traffic signals. Between some key locations on the busiest sections of the ORN, and only where there is sufficient space, the measures may include special lanes with use reserved for Games vehicles.

Copies of the consultation document have been placed in the Libraries of the House.

Transport: Workplace Parking Levy

Statement

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

I am today announcing a 12-week consultation on draft regulations for workplace parking levy licensing schemes made by local traffic authorities under the Transport Act 2000.

Powers for a local authority to make a workplace parking levy scheme were included in the Transport Act 2000, but some of the details of the legislative framework were left to be set out in regulations. The regulations would apply to any local traffic authority that wishes to make a workplace parking levy scheme in England outside London.

Nottingham City Council has designed a workplace parking levy scheme and made and published a scheme order. The order cannot come into force until confirmed by the Secretary of State for Transport, and the Secretary of State cannot consider the order in the absence of an appropriate regulatory framework. The regulations in today’s consultation concern that framework.

Publication of this consultation should not be interpreted as implying that a decision on the Nottingham scheme has been taken.

Consultation documents are available on the Department for Transport's website at www.dft.gov.uk/roads/consultations. Copies will be placed in the House Library.