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Written Statements

Volume 711: debated on Wednesday 10 June 2009

Written Statements

Wednesday 10 June 2009

Defence Science and Technology Laboratory: Key Targets


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

The following key targets have been agreed with the chief executive of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory for the FY 2009-10.


KT1: Quality

Deliver high-quality outputs that have impact on the DSTL’s MoD customer’s 12-benchmark programmes.

KT2: Cost and timeliness

Satisfactorily deliver at least 90 per cent of all projects that complete in the financial year 2009-10 to time and to budget.

KT3: Customer satisfaction

Maintain the current high level of overall satisfaction with DSTL level of service, with at least 93 per cent of project feedback responses achieving a score of seven or above for overall satisfaction.

KT4:  Capability

Using independent and authoritative experts agreed with the MoD CSA, the DSTL will complete a benchmark assessment by external peer review of the national and international standing of 10 key capability groups in areas where the DSTL leads the work for the MoD with a view to obtaining “strong” assessments for at least seven out of the 10 groups and no “development needed” assessments for any of the 10 groups.

KT5: Financial Performance

Achieve an average return on capital employed (ROCE) of at least 3.5 per cent over the period 2009-10 to 2013-14.

KT6: Efficiency

Deliver ongoing efficiency savings associated with the ilab programme and other initiatives in line with the corporate plan for 2009-14.

This will be demonstrated in the short term by delivering the budget loss before interest for 2009-10, while controlling indirect costs and charge rates to customers. Specific targets are:

corporate indirect cost not to exceed 35.7 per cent of net income; and

achieve the budgeted loss (£2.3 million before interest) while maintaining an average charge rate that is no higher than 2007-08 in real terms, ie no higher than £64.3 per hour.

KT7: Organisational Excellence

To embed sustainability and responsible management of information into the DSTL’s business ethics by:

reducing our total generated waste by at least 5 per cent, by the end of 2010;

reducing energy-related carbon dioxide emissions from buildings on our core sites by 15 per cent by the end of 2010;

establishing travel plans that reduce the DSTL’s carbon footprint including reducing single occupancy commuter journeys to core sites by an overall 7 per cent by October 2009;

establishing certificated environmental management systems compliant with ISO 14001:2004 at a second DSTL site by March 2010;

reviewing and improving the condition of all individual areas within the DSTL estate that may be classified as areas of sites of special scientific interest (SSSI) by 2010; and

receiving assurance from internal and external audit that the DSTL is operating in accordance with the current Cabinet Office requirements for managing personal and other information.

Defence Support Group: Key Targets


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

The following key targets have been agreed with the chief executive of the Defence Support Group for the FY 2009-10.


KT1: Quality

Deliver an improved quality performance by achieving fewer than four attributable major customer concerns within the DSG’s air business and reducing upheld customer complaints within the land business by 5 per cent against the 2007-08 outturn. 

KT2: Financial Performance

To achieve at least a 3.5 per cent return on capital employed.

KT3: Business Transformation

Realise the benefits approved by the DSG Trading Fund Board in the DSG transformation plan.

KT4: Efficiency

Improve overall efficiency by at least 12 per cent against the baseline established for the DSG on formation.

KT5: Delivery

Meet delivery targets as agreed with the customer:

air business—to achieve 95 per cent of customer programmes; and

land business—to meet customer agreed targets for delivery schedules on critical programme lines (94 per cent September 2009, 94 per cent December 2009, 97 per cent March 2010) and land load tasks (92 per cent June 2009, 92 per cent September 2009, 92 per cent December 2009, 92 per cent March 2010).

EU: Transport Council


My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Transport (Sadiq Khan) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

I will attend the second Transport Council of the Czech presidency, which takes place in Luxembourg on 11 June.

The council will be asked to adopt a decision authorising the Commission to open negotiations with Georgia on a comprehensive air transport agreement. The UK supports this negotiating mandate.

There will be a progress report and policy debate on a proposal for a regulation on the rights of passengers in bus and coach transport. The UK intervention will set out UK views on the scope of the directive and on its liability provisions.

It is expected that the council will be asked to reach a political agreement on a proposal for a regulation concerning a European rail network for competitive freight. The Government believe that the changes negotiated in council working group address all the UK’s key concerns with the Commission’s original proposal. We should therefore actively promote agreement now, so as to bank the achieved negotiating objectives, thereby avoiding the real possibility of the text regressing at future negotiations.

There will be a progress report on a proposed amendment to regulation (EC) 1321/2004 on the establishment of structures for the management of the European satellite radio-navigation programmes. The Government support the Commission’s aim of amending this regulation, given the substantial changes that have been made to the finance, governance and procurement procedures for Galileo since the original regulation was adopted. From a legal perspective any inconsistencies have to be addressed.

There will also be a progress report on the proposal for a directive laying down the framework for the deployment of intelligent transport systems in the field of road transport and for interfaces with other transport modes. I intend to thank the presidency for its report. The UK position remains that we are supportive of the objectives of the action plan, but do not believe that the Commission has made a sufficiently strong case to implement the actions through the proposed legislative framework.

The Commission recently produced a Green Paper on trans-European networks, entitled TEN-T: A Policy Review Towards a Better Integrated Trans-European Transport Network at the Service of the Common Transport Policy. There will be a lunch debate on this and the council will be asked to adopt conclusions. I expect to be able to agree to the conclusions.

Under AOB, the Commission will present its recent proposal for a directive on aviation security charges. We will want to ensure that the proposal is in accord with the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality and that member states’ ability to impose more stringent security measures when the situation demands it is in no way restricted.

Ministry of Defence: Police and Guarding Agency


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

Key targets for 2009-10 have been set for the chief constable/chief executive of the Ministry of Defence Police and Guarding Agency (MDPGA).  These targets are linked to the delivery of the agency’s key outputs and providing an effective policing and guarding service.

In brief the seven key targets are:

Key Target 1a

By 31 March 2010, to have delivered at least 95 per cent of MDP agreed UK customer tasks.

Key Target 1b

By 31 March 2010, to have delivered at least 95 per cent of MGS agreed UK customer tasks.

Key Target 2a

To maintain or improve an MDP customer satisfaction rate of 88 per cent (the level achieved in 2008-09)

Key Target 2b

To maintain or improve an MGS customer satisfaction rate of 85 per cent (the level achieved in 2008-09). 

Key Target 3

By 31 March 2010, to have achieved a detection rate of at least 55 per cent for crime that significantly impacts on defence capability.

Key Target 4

By 31 March 2010, to have achieved all agreed international tasks.

Key Target 5

By 31 March 2010, to have agreed with TLBs new joint business agreements in which taskings match available resources.

Key Target 6

By 31 March 2010, to have raised the diversity excellence model baseline score for the agency to 390 points (from 355 points).

Key Target 7

By 31 March 2010, to deliver specified outputs within 1 per cent of authorised outturn.

Shipping: Light Dues


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

I wish to announce today light dues rates for 2009-10 and for 2010-11. I will set out the reasons why we have concluded that it is necessary to increase rates.

The Government believe that transport providers and not the general taxpayer should pay for the essential safety services needed for safe and reliable operations. For shipping, this includes the aids to navigation—lighthouses, buoys and beacons—provided by the three general lighthouse authorities (GLAs) around the coasts of Great Britain and Ireland.

The GLAs have improved the cost-effectiveness of their services in recent years through fewer ships, light vessels and lighthouses, fewer staff, reduced use of helicopters and revised working practices. Overall their operating costs have been reduced by 25 per cent in the past 10 years, and light dues have not had to go up since 1993.

Despite these efficiency improvements and prudent management of the General Lighthouse Fund (GLF), we were facing a shortfall in funding this year of £21 million for these essential safety services. This had arisen because, since light dues were last reduced in 2006 (at the request of the light dues payers), the income from dues had not been enough to cover the spending by the GLAs. The GLF has relied on income from the investment of capital receipts generated by rationalisation to make up the difference, the credit crunch led to the returns on investment from the GLF drying up and the weak pound meant the costs of running Irish Lights (in euros) had increased.

Faced with a shortfall in funding this year, we took decisive action and consulted on proposed increases in light dues to meet the GLAs' essential operational requirements. We proposed that the rate of light dues would need to rise from 35p per net registered ton (nrt) to 41p from 1 July. We also proposed raising the tonnage cap from 35,000 to 50,000 nrt so that some of the very biggest vessels would pay more and increasing the number of chargeable voyages from seven to nine per year in order to spread the impact among different categories of shipping.

It was very clear from the responses to the consultation that the shipping industry has been suffering during the economic downturn and considered that this is the wrong time to be increasing costs. We therefore looked hard at whether we could avoid or defer GLA spending or find other ways of reducing the burden on light dues payers at this difficult time without compromising safety.

I am pleased to announce that the GLAs have identified 5.6 per cent further savings in 2009-10 and the position on GLF income is better than we had assumed at the start of the consultation. We believe that by a careful combination of revised budgets and management of the GLF, we can avoid some of the increase in dues and defer or reduce the changes which would have had the biggest impact.

We are therefore proposing a lesser increase in light dues from 35p to 39p per nrt from 1 July 2009 and putting off a further increase from 39 to 43p per nrt until 1 April 2010. Even after the second increase, the light dues rate of 43p per nrt will be no higher than it was at its peak 16 years ago, and in real terms 32 per cent lower. The two-stage changes should allow everyone to plan ahead with more certainty about next year.

We have looked again at how the burden is spread between different types of shipping. Our original proposal was to increase the tonnage cap (the maximum cargo capacity up to which the light dues rate applies) from 35,000 to 50,000 nrt so that the very biggest ships would pay more. This is fair given the continuing trend towards fewer, bigger vessels in the container and bulk sector. In recognition of the exceptionally difficult economic climate this sector is facing this year, we have however decided to reduce and defer that increase, so that the tonnage cap will rise to 40,000 nrt from 1 April 2010. We believe that the increase in the voyage cap to 9 per year from 1 July 2009 is still appropriate.

We believe these changes strike a fair balance between the interests of safety and the protection of commerce. We continue to require the GLAs to identify additional savings and efficiencies.

It is, however, clear from the consultation that feelings about the funding arrangements for Irish Lights are strong. We have taken the opportunity of this consultation period to consider the delivery and development of aids to navigation in the two countries. Although the present shortfall in funding was accentuated by the current exchange rate between the pound and euro, the cross-subsidy of Irish Lights from the GLF under arrangements agreed between the two Governments in 1985 was not the cause of the shortfall.

UK and Irish Transport Ministers have reconsidered the arrangements, which predate the foundation of the Irish state and constitute an example of long-standing British-Irish and north-south co-operation serving the mutual interests of the communities. On the basis of a recent study, we have agreed to alter the formula for apportioning Irish costs on a north-south basis. The existing 30/70 apportionment is to be replaced by 15/85 with effect from the current year (2009-10).

We also agreed on the need for an overall assessment of the provision of the integrated aids to navigation service to all regions in the UK and Ireland. An evaluation is to be undertaken which will consider all aspects of delivery, including options for continuing increases in efficiency, potential improvements in structure and the overall arrangements for financing.

We expressed our support for the valuable work carried out by the service in both countries but stressed that we are anxious that optimum cost-effective use should be made of the resources available in maintaining safe navigation in UK and Irish waters.

In conclusion, in order to ensure that the GLAs have sufficient funds to enable them to carry out their statutory duties in respect of maritime safety and to protect the commitments of the GLF, including the pension contributions of GLA staff, it is necessary to increase light dues. Having considered all the representations I believe that it is in the interests of all parties to implement a two-stage increase in light dues that will avoid some of the immediate impact on the shipping industry at a time when it is suffering from the economic recession and downturn in trade and allow it more time to plan for future expenditure. This approach will also help the GLAs to focus on the continuing need to keep their costs to an absolute minimum consistent with maintaining safety standards.

Valuation Office Agency


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

Subsequent to my Statement of 9 December 2008, HM Revenue and Customs has completed its framework review of the Valuation Office Agency and this is published today. I have placed a copy in the Library of the House, along with the revised agency framework document. These can also be found at

Valuation Office Agency: Key Performance Indicators


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

I have today set the following key performance indicators for the Valuation Office Agency for 2009-10:

Customer Satisfaction

to achieve overall customer satisfaction within the top 15 per cent of public sector comparators.


to enable prompt issue of correct bills by local authorities through clearing all reports for council tax and business rates within an average of 10 working days;

to determine 95 per cent of housing benefit claims without an inspection in three working days;

to enable prompt issue of tax assessments by clearing all HMRC initial appraisal cases for inheritance tax within an average of six days and for capital gains tax within an average of nine days;

to contain reductions in the 2005 rating lists to a maximum of 4.2 per cent of the total compiled list rateable value, over the entire life of the lists;

to ensure that 96 per cent of new council tax bandings are right first time;

to review for local housing allowance purposes 25 per cent of broad rental market areas; and

to achieve income from non-statutory services of at least £17.5 million.

Value for Money

to improve overall value for money on local taxation work by 3 per cent a year; and

to improve value for money on inheritance tax work for HMRC by 5 per cent.


all staff to have the core skills and competencies for their role within six months of taking up post.