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Written Statements

Volume 708: debated on Monday 23 February 2009

Written Statements

Monday 23 February 2009

Department of Health: DEL


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

Subject to the necessary supplementary estimate, the Department of Health's element of the departmental expenditure limit (DEL) will increase by £26,403,000 from £98,565,431,000 to £98,591,834,000 and the administration cost limit will be increased by £3,280,000 from £219,163,000 to £222,443,000. The Food Standards Agency DEL increases by £700,000 from £137,720,000 to £138,420,000. The overall DEL including the Food Standards Agency will increase by £27,103,000 from £98,703,151,000 to £98,730,254,000. The impact on resource and capital are set out in the following table:

 ChangeNew DEL

Voted £m

Non-voted £m

Voted £m

Non-voted £m

Total £m

Department of Health






Resource DEL, of which






Administration Budget *






Near-cash in Resource DEL






Capital DEL






Total Department of Health DEL






Depreciation **






Total Department of Health spending (after adjustment)






Food Standards Agency






Resource DEL, of which






Administration Budget *






Near-cash in Resource DEL






Capital DEL






Total Food Standards Agency DEL






Depreciation **






Total Food Standards Agency spending (after adjustment)






* The total of administration budget and near-cash in resource DEL figures may well be greater that the total resource DEL, due to definitions overlapping.

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

The Department of Health DEL has increased by £26,403,000 made up of:

the take-up of £3,000,000 (administration costs) end-year flexibility as announced in the provisional outturn White Paper (Cm 7419);

£30,000 (£-200,000 capital) for adjustments to Invest to Save budget awards;

a net transfer of £296,000 (administration costs) from the Cabinet Office for services of the Parliamentary Counsel, offset by funding for the centre of expertise for sustainable procurement (administration cost limit);

a transfer of £-16,000 (administration costs) to the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills for the skills training strategy (administration cost limit);

a net transfer of £-5,025,000 to the Department for Children, Schools and Families mainly for substance misuse funding offset by a grant for the child migrant trusts;

a net transfer of £28,318,000 with the Ministry of Justice mainly for adjustments to prison healthcare budgets offset by funding for mental health review tribunals; and

a transfer of £-200,000 to the Statistics Board for information on migration statistics.

In addition, there is movement from the revenue to capital DEL of £200,000,000 to allow for increased capital investment in the NHS.

The Department of Health’s administration cost limit has increased by £3,280,000 as described above.

The change to the Food Standards Agency element of the DEL is due to:

a transfer of £450,000 from programme into capital; and

reinstatement of £700,000 non-cash budget to the Comprehensive Spending Review settlement position.



My right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Alistair Darling) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Economic and Financial Affairs Council was held in Brussels on 10 February 2009. The following items were discussed:

Preparation of the meeting of the European Council

European economic recovery plan

Ministers held a debate on the current state of implementation of the European economic recovery plan (EERP), including a first horizontal evaluation report from the European Commission. The Government are firm supporters of the timely, targeted and temporary measures taken at national level under the framework of the EERP to stimulate growth in the EU.

ECOFIN exchanged views on the financial aspects of the Commission's proposals for energy and broadband projects to be funded through the EU budget. The Government will continue to scrutinise the Commission's proposals in detail.

Key issues paper

ECOFIN held an orientation debate on the key issues paper on economic and financial issues for the spring 2009 European Council. The full version of the paper will be agreed before the European Council based on the outline proposed by the presidency. The Government supported the outline, which emphasises the serious challenges in 2009 and the remaining need for action to stabilise financial markets and facilitate a speedy economic recovery.

Reduced rates of VAT

Following a political discussion by Ministers, the presidency indicated that it would reflect on how to take the dossier forward in response to the European Council's request to settle the issue by March. A further discussion is expected at the ECOFIN meeting on 10 March, in the run-up to the next European Council, on 19 and 20 March. The Government continue to believe that member states should be allowed the flexibility to apply reduced rates of VAT where they do not materially affect the functioning of the single market.

General budget of the EU: discharge procedure in respect of the implementation of the budget for 2007

ECOFIN adopted a recommendation to the European Parliament on the discharge to be given to the Commission for implementation of the EU general budget for 2007. The UK welcomes the references within the recommendation relating to the key role of member states in improving financial management and accountability of EU funds under shared management.

Other business

Short selling

The council took note of an intervention by the Dutch Minister calling for work to enhance greater co-ordination between member states and at international level on temporary measures aimed at short selling. The Commission and the Committee of European Securities Regulators (CESR) will look further into these issues, which the UK welcomes in the wider context of effort to improve corporate governance.

Breakfast meeting on the economic situation

Ministers discussed the implementation of financial rescue packages. They agreed that the priority is to fully restore the functioning of credit channels and on that basis agreed to a set of lines of communication. ECOFIN agreed that, to safeguard banking sector stability, measures to deal with impaired assets could usefully complement agreed instruments, consistent with principles set in October 2008. ECOFIN will continue to monitor this issue closely. The UK fully supports these measures and the ECOFIN lines of communication as the basis of a flexible, co-ordinated European response to the financial situation.

NATO Parliamentary Assembly


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

My honourable friend the Member for Wakefield (Mary Creagh) has replaced my honourable friend the Member for Glasgow North (Ann McKechin) as a member of the United Kingdom delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.

Northern Ireland: Policing and Justice


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

On 18 November, an historic agreement was announced by the First Minister and Deputy First Minister setting out a process which would pave the way to the devolution of policing and justice powers to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The agreement and the subsequent report of the Assembly and Executive Review Committee on the modalities of devolution contained a number of significant decisions on the shape of the post-devolution framework for the administration of policing and justice in Northern Ireland.

The Government are committed to helping to move the process forward in whatever way they can.

I am therefore today introducing a Bill to Parliament to give effect to those elements of the November statement and the AERC report that require primary legislation.

The Bill does not provide for when devolution will happen, nor does it provide for what is to devolve—both of these still require further consideration by the parties and ultimately by Parliament.

It does, however, provide a framework for the post-devolution administration of justice by providing for a new ministerial model which the Assembly can use to set up a new department of justice.

It also provides for certain functions in relation to judicial appointments and removals to rest with the Judicial Appointments Commission rather than the First and Deputy First Ministers.

In addition, later this week I will be laying an order under Section 17(4) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 to increase the maximum number of ministerial offices to 11. This will enable the Assembly to give effect to the recommendation of the AERC report that a department with policing and justice functions should be established as an additional department to the existing departments which make up the Northern Ireland Executive. The Assembly is currently prevented from establishing an additional department by Section 17 of the Northern Ireland Act, which limits the number of ministerial offices to 10.

Separately, I will also commence a number of provisions under the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2006 and the Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act 2007. This will ensure that when the Northern Ireland Assembly makes a decision to legislate to set up the new department of justice it has a full range of options to choose from.

There are still important decisions to be taken by the Northern Ireland Assembly on the timing of devolution and on what functions they wish to see devolved. However, these measures provide the framework for those decisions to be taken and represent another significant step for Northern Ireland on the path to the completion of devolution.



My honourable friend the Minister of State for Policing, Crime and Security (Vernon Coaker) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am today placing in the House Library two reports, published on Monday 16 February 2009, which form an important part of our overall approach to removing unnecessary bureaucracy in policing. These are Reducing the Data Burden on Police Forces in England and Wales by Sir David Normington, the Permanent Secretary at the Home Office, and the interim report by Jan Berry, the new independent Reducing Bureaucracy Advocate, entitled Reducing Bureaucracy in Policing.

On the same day, the Home Secretary announced the next step in common-sense policing by scrapping a police timesheet, freeing up an estimated 260,000 police hours to focus on cutting crime and driving up public confidence. Police officers will no longer have to complete an annual analysis form accounting for their activity—a step which alone frees up approximately 150 extra officers and staff.

Both these documents form part of our overall approach to reducing the burdens placed on police forces and reforming processes to free up officers to deal with the issues that matter to people. The Government have rightly committed themselves to freeing up police time to work with communities to tackle the issues that matter to local people. This involves cutting red tape and dramatically reducing administrative tasks which can take up so much time, including the collection of data by the Home Office and others. This agenda was at the heart of the policing Green Paper, From the Neighbourhood to the National: Policing our Communities Together, published in July last year.

The Green Paper set out a clear commitment to reduce the data collection burden placed on police forces in England and Wales and Sir David Normington’s review sets out how the Green Paper’s commitment to reduce by up to 50 per cent the amount of data collected by the Home Office is to be achieved.

His review contains a number of important proposals, most of which can be implemented in the short term, for:

cutting out altogether or significantly reducing 36 data streams;

ending activity based costing, which alone will free up an estimated 260,000 police hours;

a reduction in ad hoc data requests from the Home Office;

a two-year moratorium on requests for new data collection; and

a “gateway” process to limit requests which fall outside the annual data requirement.

A new data hub will further reduce the burden on police forces, dispensing with 40 per cent of data requests from the Home Office. Taken together these measures will significantly reduce the central data burden imposed by the Home Office and its agencies.

The Home Office is also streamlining the performance management arrangements for police forces by removing police targets and replacing them with a new single top-down target on confidence. We are also continuing to invest in technology to allow officers to spend more time on patrol. We have now committed £80 million to delivering an ambitious target to put in place 30,000 mobile data devices by March 2010, and the second round of funding awards were announced on 29 December 2008. The delivery of these mobile devices to the front line will save an individual police officer up to 30 minutes per shift.

We also used last year’s Green Paper to respond to the recommendations made by Sir Ronnie Flanagan in his hugely important Review of Policing. It is now almost one year on from the publication of Sir Ronnie Flanagan’s recommendations and we have made considerable progress in implementing them. Nineteen of his 59 recommendations have already been implemented and the remaining are well on track to be delivered.

One of the most significant changes we have made is allowing forces to scrap the stop and account form, which if implemented by all forces could save the service up to 690,000 hours each year.

To build on the progress we have made, we have now appointed Jan Berry as the new independent Reducing Bureaucracy Advocate to provide a national lead across all the work under way to reduce bureaucracy.

In her report, Jan Berry recognises the amount of work being undertaken across government and the police service to reduce unnecessary bureaucracy and the benefits that are already being delivered. Examples include the streamlined processes project in the four force pilot areas (Leicestershire, Staffordshire, Surrey and the West Midlands), the digital recording of interviews in Lancashire and the use of electronic file building in the West Midlands.

Jan Berry’s full report will be published later in the year but her initial findings and recommendations are now being considered by the Government and include:

support for scrapping time-sheets for police officers;

reviewing working practices within forces to simplify processes;

making more use of technology to free up officer time and maximising the use of existing airwave equipment; and

reviewing charging practices to reduce unnecessary burdens on officers and help them to use their discretion more.

Supported by a practitioner group made up of police officers and staff, Jan Berry is also looking in detail at the bureaucracy involved in 10 time-consuming policing processes in order to identify where further savings can be made.

There is more to be done, within both the police service and the Home Office, and we all must actively encourage police forces to share good practice and work collaboratively to adopt measures to reduce bureaucracy.

The Home Office will continue to play its part to drive this important reform and I am encouraged by the progress that we have made since the publication of the Green Paper last July.

Prisoners: Parole


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

I have appointed Sir David Latham to be chairman of the Parole Board from 25 February 2009 for a period of 12 months. He succeeds Sir Duncan Nichol in this role.

Roads: Congestion


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

I am today announcing the second payment tranche for the urban congestion performance fund that will see the 10 largest urban areas in England receive a further £10.7 million to study and address the causes of urban congestion.

My department has a public service agreement indicator regarding journey time on main roads into urban areas. The indicator states that by 2010-11 the 10 largest urban areas in England will meet the congestion targets set in their local transport plan relating to movement on main roads into city centres. The indicator will be deemed to have been met if, on target routes in these areas, an average increase in travel of 4.4 per cent is accommodated with an average increase of 3.6 per cent in person journey time per mile.

In February the department and National Statistics published the Transport Statistics Bulletin for the period up to quarter 4 2008. This included performance data for the urban congestion indicator up to the end of August 2008. These data showed that the average person journey time across all the target routes has improved by 3 per cent between the baseline (using 2004-05 and 2005-06 date) and 2007-08. At the same time the average level of travel fell by 3.3 per cent across all the target routes.

Based on this performance, the £10.7 million payment will now be shared between the participating areas as below:

Urban Area

Tranche 2 Payments



Greater Manchester


West Midlands


West Yorkshire


South Yorkshire


Tyne and Wear












The performance fund is worth a total of £60 million over four years, and today’s announcement will have seen a total of £22.7 million paid to the 10 areas. A further £35 million is available over the next two financial years and will be awarded on a performance basis.

Shipping: Light Dues


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

I wish to announce that we will be consulting on proposed amendments to the Merchant Shipping (Light Dues) Regulations 1997.

On current projections, the General Lighthouse Fund will incur an estimated funding shortfall next year of around £21 million. Recent falls in the investment portfolio of the General Lighthouse Fund have reduced the capacity of the fund to defer or spread these increases in dues, which are being kept to the minimum necessary to deliver next year’s funding requirement. The Government have a statutory responsibility to ensure that the fund is maintained at an appropriate level to meet the operating requirements of the General Lighthouse Authorities. Failure to deliver safe maritime conditions would adversely affect the business interests of commercial enterprises and the safety of vessels and their crews.

We are proposing that light dues rates for merchant vessels calling at UK ports will be adjusted from 1 July this year by 6p from 35p to 41p per net registered ton (NRT); that the tonnage cap will rise from 35,000 to 50,000 NRT, so that the maximum charge per call will become £20,500; and that the voyage cap will be raised from seven voyages to nine voyages, so that a vessel will not be required to pay light dues after nine payments are made in the year. A payment is valid for a rolling month from the day of payment. Through this consultation we are seeking views on a range of options for raising the necessary money.

We have worked with the shipping industry over many years to reduce the costs of providing general aids to navigation and the General Lighthouse Authorities are rightly proud of their operational and financial performance where light dues rates have not had to rise since 1993 and have actually fallen by over 40 per cent against RPI over that period. This has been achieved through major efficiency gains made by the General Lighthouse Authorities resulting in lower operational costs of over 20 per cent in the last decade. We will continue to work with the industry and the General Lighthouse Authorities further to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the service.

In 2006, when rates were cut by 10 per cent, we had the industry’s assurance that as a result of this significant reduction, if the General Lighthouse Fund were to face greater financial demands than it could meet, the industry recognised that rates would have to rise. That time has now come and that is why we are proposing to make these changes to the regulations.

We will continue our negotiations with the Irish Government aimed at reaching a new lasting agreement for funding the work of the Commissioners of Irish Lights in providing a whole-of-Ireland aids-to-navigation service.

Copies of the consultation paper have been deposited in the House Libraries and are available on the DfT website at Responses should reach DfT by 18 May 2009.

Taxation: Fraud


My right honourable friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Stephen Timms) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

This is to announce a new procedure where HMRC suspects that there are serious indirect tax irregularities, knowing involvement in transactions that form part of a missing trader intra-Community (MTIC) fraud and have reason to believe dishonest conduct has occurred, where neither criminal investigation nor the civil investigation of fraud procedure outlined in Code of Practice 9 (2005) is appropriate.

Code of Practice 9 (2005) covers HMRC investigations of suspected serious fraud against the Exchequer where, for policy or operational reasons, it is considered inappropriate to launch a criminal investigation. Where cases are not suitable for Code of Practice 9 (2005) or criminal investigation, for indirect taxes, there is already a procedure for penalties to be imposed for dishonest conduct in cases involving lower level fraud set out in Notice 160 (Inquiries into Indirect Tax Matters (2007)).

This Statement introduces a new notice, Notice 161, which explains how inquiries into serious indirect tax irregularities will be handled in cases involving transactions that form part of an MTIC fraud and where HMRC has reason to believe dishonest conduct has occurred.

The procedure complements HMRC’s policy of providing a level playing field for all businesses by supporting those who wish to comply but dealing severely with those who seek an unfair advantage through non-compliance. It will be used in cases where HMRC suspects knowing involvement in transactions that form part of a (MTIC) fraud.

A copy of the new Notice 161 is being placed in the House of Commons Library.

Terrorism: Finance


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

In a Written Ministerial Statement on 10 October 2006, the then Economic Secretary undertook to report to Parliament on a quarterly basis on the operation of the UK's counterterrorism asset freezing regime. This is the ninth of these reports and covers the period October to December 2008.1

Asset-freezing designations

In the quarter October to December 2008, the Treasury made one domestic designation under the Al-Qaida and Taliban (United Nations Measures) Order 2006.

There were three financial sanctions listings at the UN, and none at the EU, in relation to terrorism, or al-Qaeda and the Taliban, of persons with links to the UK.

As of 31 December 2008, a total of 253 separate accounts containing just over £632,5002 of suspected terrorist funds were frozen in the UK.


The Treasury keeps domestic asset-freezing cases under review. Ten formal reviews have been completed in this quarter; five persons or entities were de-listed, with the remaining five continuing to be listed.


In accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1452 (2002), the Treasury operates a licensing system whereby designated persons and others are able to apply to make or receive payments under specific and, if necessary, monitored conditions. In this quarter, the following licences were issued to listed persons:

nine listed persons were granted legal expenses licences;

15 listed persons were granted a basic expenses (including licences for benefits payments); and

one listed person was granted a licence for extraordinary expenses.

In this quarter no household of listed persons was granted benefits licences.


Judgment on the Treasury's appeal against the High Court ruling in the case of A, K, M, Q & G v HM Treasury, in which the judge ordered that the relevant legislation be quashed, was handed down by the Court of Appeal on 30 October 2008. The Court of Appeal overturned the High Court's decision. The Court of Appeal upheld the terrorism order (although it severed that part of the order that it concluded was ultra vires) and the al-Qaeda and Taliban order, confirming that the Government acted lawfully in making these orders. This judgment ensures that the UK is able to maintain an effective terrorist asset-freezing regime in accordance with our UN obligations.

1 The detail that can be provided to the House on a quarterly basis is subject to the need to avoid the identification, directly or indirectly, of personal or operationally sensitive information.

2 This figure reflects account balances at time of freezing and includes approximately $58,000 of suspected terrorist funds frozen in the UK. This has been converted using exchange rates as of 31.12.08. Future fluctuations in the exchange rate may impact on the contribution this sum makes to future totals of suspected terrorist funds frozen.



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

There are an estimated 3,000 British citizens and British nationals in Zimbabwe with the right of abode in the UK who are 70 or over or who are vulnerable because of their care needs or medical conditions.

The Government's advice to vulnerable British people and their families has been that if they are concerned about the situation in Zimbabwe they should consider their need to remain. This advice has been unchanged since 2007 and still stands.

But the Government are concerned about older and vulnerable British people who may be increasingly unable to support themselves in Zimbabwe and who are unable to return to the UK without assistance. We recognise that a power-sharing accord has now been agreed and that Morgan Tsvangirai was sworn in as Prime Minister on 11 February. However, some British people have been badly affected by the collapse of Zimbabwean infrastructure and we cannot expect this to be put right overnight. They are facing severe difficulties getting access to the food, medicines and care that they need.

The Government are therefore ready to offer assistance in resettling in the UK to those older and vulnerable British people who are unable to make their own arrangements to leave and unable to support themselves financially in Britain. The Government are making arrangements to receive, assess needs and support those eligible British citizens and British nationals with the right of abode who wish to resettle in the UK, including early access to benefits.

We are putting in place reception arrangements and provision for appropriate accommodation and support. The Local Government Association, ADSS housing associations, local authorities and charities are involved in discussions on practical support and funding. The costs of this programme will be met by Government.

This is a cross-government programme, involving a number of departments, which the Prime Minister has asked me to co-ordinate.

We are informing older and vulnerable British people in Zimbabwe of the assistance available through the British embassy in Harare. It is difficult to anticipate the extent of interest in this offer, but we estimate that up to 750 people may wish to come to the UK over 18 months.

The British embassy is not advising British people to leave Zimbabwe and continues to provide a full range of consular services to those who remain.