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Written Statements

Volume 712: debated on Tuesday 14 July 2009

Written Statements

Tuesday 14 July 2009

Animal Health: Report and Accounts

Statement

My honourable friend the Minister for Food, Farming and the Environment (Jim Fitzpatrick) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The 2008-09 annual report and accounts for Animal Health will be laid before Parliament today.

Courts: Means Testing

Statement

The Government published their response to consultation and impact assessment on Crown Court means testing on 8 June 2009. The response sets out the Government’s intentions in respect of the introduction of the new scheme, to begin in January 2010.

Today, I am announcing a consultation process on the draft regulations designed to support the introduction of Crown Court means testing. The consultation period will last from 14 July 2009 until 5 October 2009.

Copies of the draft regulations have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses, and they are also available at www.justice.gov.uk. The ministry’s website also gives details of how to respond to the consultation exercise.

Local Transport Act 2008

Statement

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

The Local Transport Act 2008 includes provisions aimed at making bus quality contracts schemes a more realistic option for local transport authorities outside London.

The Department for Transport is today publishing a consultation on draft regulations and guidance to support the implementation of those provisions. Copies of the consultation materials will be made available on the department’s website at www.dft.gov.uk/localtransportact and are being placed in the Libraries of the House.

National Assembly for Wales (Legislative Competence) (Local Government) Order 2009

Statement

My right honourable friend the Secretary of Sate for Wales has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am pleased to inform the House that the proposed National Assembly for Wales (Legislative Competence) (Local Government) Order 2009 has been laid today, as Command Paper (Cm 7680).

Copies of this Command Paper can be found in the Printed Paper Office and will be placed in the Library from 12 noon. I have written to the House of Lords Constitutional Committee and to the House of Commons Welsh Affairs Select Committee to request that they undertake pre-legislative scrutiny.

NATO: Defence Planning Questionnaire

Statement

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

Today I have released to the EU the UK’s response to the NATO 2008 defence planning questionnaire. This questionnaire contains information on our forces and capabilities which we, and all other NATO partners, send to NATO on a biannual basis as part of their force planning process. NATO uses this information to understand what capabilities allies would in principle make available for NATO operations and to inform the planning process.

NATO and the EU operate separate force planning and capability development processes and until now the UK has made different offers of capability to the EU and to NATO. For NATO we offer a large-scale force package while we offer a medium-scale force package to the EU, which reflects the lower level of strategic ambition within the European Security and Defence Policy framework. However, following the precedent set by a number of other NATO partners we have decided to submit our NATO defence planning questionnaire responses as the single source of UK information for both the NATO and EU capability planning processes. Respecting the autonomous decision-making processes of both organisations and noting that our single set of capabilities is available for the UN, EU as well as NATO and potentially other multilateral coalition operations, we judge it to be more efficient to maintain one set of information on our forces and capabilities and to provide it in the same format to NATO and the EU. Using the same set of information on the nation’s capabilities will, in concurrency terms, assist both organisations in identifying and understanding the shortfalls that exist across both organisations and in taking remedial action to address those shortfalls without duplication of effort. Sending the UK defence planning questionnaire to the EU will also provide momentum to the drive for greater harmonisation between the NATO and EU planning processes, a longstanding UK aspiration which other nations support. We further hope that by taking this step it will encourage other European allies to follow suit.

It remains the case that, in respect of any multinational operation, our forces are made available on a case by case basis following a national decision. Releasing the UK defence planning questionnaire to the EU does not therefore mean that we are increasing our level of commitment to any current or future EU operation.

Newspapers: Surveillance Methods

Statement

My honourable friend the Minister of State for Policing, Crime and Counter-Terrorism (David Hanson) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

In response to the Urgent Question on 9 July 2009 by the honourable Member for Oxford West and Abingdon (Evan Harris), I undertook to report back to the House at an appropriate time.

Since that Urgent Question was answered, Assistant Commissioner John Yates has made a public statement on 9 July about the original inquiry by the Metropolitan Police Service into the alleged unlawful tapping of mobile phones by Mr Clive Goodman and Mr Glen Mulcaire. I am placing the text of Assistant Commissioner Yate’s statement in the Library of the House.

He has concluded that as no additional evidence has come to light in respect of the Goodman/Mulcaire case and as the Metropolitan Police Service has not formally received allegations in relation to the activities of any other journalists there is no need for a further investigation.

The Metropolitan Police has also confirmed that it does not consider that there is anything else substantive in relation to additional evidence or information that would justify it reopening the original investigation. Neither has the Guardian approached the MPS with any new additional evidence.

As mentioned in his statement on 9 July, Assistant Commissioner John Yates is ensuring that the Metropolitan Police Service has been diligent, reasonable and sensible, and taken all proper steps to ensure that where it has evidence that people have been the subject of any form of phone tapping (by Mr Clive Goodman or Mr Glen Mulcaire) or that there is any suspicion that they might have been, that they have been informed. The decision to inform individuals that they have been targeted for illegal interception of their phone communications is an operational matter for the police.

Following his statement, and in view of comments which had been made in both Houses following last week’s newspaper articles, the director-general of the Crime and Policing Group in the Home Office wrote seeking clarification on some issues to Assistant Commissioner John Yates on 10 July who responded the same day. I am placing copies of that correspondence in the Library of the House.

The Director of Public Prosecutions announced on 9 July an urgent examination of the material supplied by the police three years ago to satisfy himself and assure the public that the appropriate actions were taken in relation to that material. That review continues.

The Information Commissioner’s Office will consider what action to take if evidence emerges of breaches of the Data Protection Act 1998.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission has received a complaint from the honourable Member for Eastleigh about police action in this case and is currently considering whether there are any issues raised which might fall within its remit.

Any new evidence should be referred to the police or to the Information Commissioner if it relates to a data protection breach.

The Government will report back to the House when there are any substantive developments.

Planning: Infrastructure Planning Commission

Statement

My right honourable friend the Minister for Housing and Planning (John Healey) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Government will publish the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan shortly. This will set out the UK’s approach to becoming a sustainable-advanced low-carbon country, which means cutting our emissions, securing our energy supplies, maximising economic opportunities and protecting the most vulnerable. The new development consent regime for nationally significant infrastructure projects (NSIPs) provided for by the Planning Act 2008 is central to delivering the development needed to meet these objectives. Today I can confirm that the new regime will be put in place starting from 1 October with the establishment of the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC). Earlier this year we made a commitment to listen to the views of promoters and others on the best way to implement the new regime and to provide further detail on both implementation of the regime and production of national policy statements (NPSs). The consistent message that has emerged from this is the need for certainty and predictability. People want clarity about when the new regime will consider applications from each sector and an adequate lead-in period between setting up the IPC and commencing the regime. Therefore, I am today announcing more detail on how we propose to implement the new regime.

First, I can confirm that we will establish the IPC from 1 October, from which date it will begin providing advice and guidance on preparing applications, and on how the new regime will work. I can also confirm that the IPC will start accepting applications for development consent and examining these applications from 1 March 2010, when we intend to commence the new regime for NSIPs from the energy and transport sectors. Our intention is to then bring waste water and hazardous waste sectors on line in April 2011, and the water supply sector in April 2012. Setting firm implementation dates now will ensure that promoters and other stakeholders will be able to engage with the IPC with confidence.

Secondly, I am proposing to appoint Dr Pauleen Lane CBE and Robert Upton CBE as deputy chairs of the IPC. These appointments, which are subject to pre-appointment scrutiny by the Communities and Local Government Select Committee, will enable the IPC to be ready to open for business on 1 October. I will also be appointing three commissioners to the IPC later this month.

Finally, I am publishing the third and final package of secondary legislation needed to establish the IPC. This sets out the detailed procedures and rules which we intend to put in place to govern the IPC examination of applications. We will make these regulations in good time to come into force by 1 March 2010.

Once NPSs are designated the IPC will decide applications for development consent in accordance with them. However, the IPC will be able to start receiving applications from the energy and transport sectors from 1 March 2010, irrespective of whether the relevant NPS has been designated. If for any reason the relevant NPS has not been designated when a particular application reaches the decision stage, the IPC would make a recommendation to the relevant Secretary of State, who would then take the decision. In this situation, the Planning Act allows the Secretary of State a maximum of three months to make the decision, unless exceptional circumstances apply. Our intention is to keep any recommending period to a minimum. Where a relevant NPS has been published in draft it would be a consideration for the IPC when making its report and recommendation to Ministers.

I can also update the House on our latest intentions for publishing draft NPSs. The UK Low Carbon Transition Plan, which we are publishing shortly, brings together a range of important policy developments including the renewable energy strategy and proposals for regulating new coal power stations, and has significant implications for energy and transport policy which it is vital the NPSs fully reflect. Because of this, our intention is now to publish NPSs covering the following types of infrastructure in the autumn: nuclear power; renewable energy; electricity networks; fossil fuel generation; oil and gas infrastructure; ports; and road and rail networks. Subject to the outcome of public consultation and parliamentary scrutiny, we expect these NPSs to be designated over the course of next year.

The remaining four NPSs are being produced on a longer timeframe. We expect to consult on the waste water NPSs in spring 2010 and the hazardous waste NPS in summer 2010, with the aim of designating them in 2011. We intend to consult on the airports NPS by 2011 with a view to designating it later that year. Finally we hope to consult on the water supply NPS in late 2010—once the final water resource management plans are published, which are needed to inform the NPS—with the aim of designating that NPS by early 2012.

In parallel with making this Statement, I am publishing a revised version of the IPC Implementation Route Map which sets out our plans in more detail, as well as providing an update on progress to date. I am placing copies of this in the Library of the House.

The new regime which we are establishing will enable decisions about nationally significant infrastructure to be taken in a way that is fairer and faster. This is vital to our economic, environmental and social well- being, including meeting the challenge of climate change, strengthening the voice of communities and individuals, and creating the conditions for future economic success.

Railways: First Great Western

Statement

On 26 February 2008, the then Secretary of State, the right honourable member for Bolton West, made a Statement about the performance of the First Great Western Franchise, in which she informed Parliament that First Great Western had breached its franchise agreement by exceeding the limits on cancellations, and also by misreporting those cancellations.

The right honourable Member for Bolton West issued First Great Western with a remedial plan notice for exceeding the threshold on cancellations which had resulted in a breach of its franchise agreement. In response to this notice, First Great Western submitted a remedial plan addressing that level of cancellations.

On 17 March 2008 an agreement with First Great Western was signed, which required First Great Western to implement the remedial plan and to comply with a forward trajectory for reducing cancellations. The remedial period started on 1 April 2008 and would end when the criteria in the agreement were met.

The criteria in the agreement for the end of the remedial period were met by First Great Western in relation to the four-week rail reporting period ending on 27 June 2009. Cancellations figures for this four-week period have been finalised. I am therefore now able to confirm that First Great Western has met the criteria and that the remedial period is therefore now at an end. Department for Transport officials have checked the manner in which the cancellations figures were calculated and I am satisfied that the criteria have been met.

In her Statement on 26 February 2008, my predecessor also announced that, in addition to the remedial plan, First Great Western had offered a package of passenger benefits amounting to £29 million. Delivery of this obligation is not affected by the ending of the remedial period and I have been assured that First Great Western is confident that it will meet the commitments it made on time.

Sri Lanka

Statement

My honourable friend the Minister of State for the Department for International Development (Gareth Thomas) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

It is almost two months since the conflict ended in Sri Lanka. I would like to update the House on the humanitarian situation on the ground and to reiterate that meeting the humanitarian needs of the internally displaced people (IDPs) remains our immediate priority.

The IDPs are now all held in camps in Vavuniya, Jaffna, Trincomalee and Mannar. This population numbers almost 284,000 people. The humanitarian situation is now stabilising. Conditions in the IDP camps remain basic but continue to improve as the priority needs of shelter, food, water, medicine and immediate access to surgical treatment are gradually met. However, we remain concerned about high levels of malnutrition in the IDP population, particularly among young children, overcrowding and inadequate sanitation facilities.

We are also increasingly concerned about the lack of freedom of movement for this IDP population and the restrictions put on protection activities, including ensuring the safety of the IDPs, reuniting unaccompanied children with their families and registration of the population as a whole. We encourage the Government of Sri Lanka to do everything possible to ensure the civilian nature of the camps and allow humanitarian agencies to operate effectively on the ground through facilitating the timely provision of visas and lifting the practical restrictions that are still being imposed on entry.

We continue to engage fully with international and multilateral partners. The Prime Minister raised humanitarian access with President Rajapakse on 18 May. The Foreign Secretary also discussed the issue with the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister when they met on 5 June, as did Lord Malloch-Brown with the Sri Lankan Minister for Trade and External Development when they met on 19 June. Our High Commissioner to Sri Lanka regularly raises our concerns with senior members of the Sri Lankan Government. We urge the Government of Sri Lanka to make every effort to co-operate with international agencies, including continuing a dialogue with the ICRC on issues of humanitarian concern and to provide every opportunity for the ICRC to implement its mandate as Sri Lanka takes its first steps towards recovery.

DfID continues to support the relief effort to Sri Lanka as the situation on the ground allows. Since September 2008, we have committed £12.5 million. This month we approved £0.4 million to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for an emergency measles and polio vaccination campaign covering all the IDP camps in Vavuniya and for the provision of nutritional supplements. I would again like to reassure the House that all DfID funding is provided directly to neutral and impartial international agencies and we will continue to support the international agencies in their life-saving work.

Looking forward, we urge the Government of Sri Lanka to do everything they can to facilitate the return of the IDPs from the camps to their homes as soon as possible, including interim options of staying with host families, and to allow freedom of movement as a priority. We welcome the Government’s public commitment to return the bulk of IDPs to their homes within 180 days. In addition, after 26 years of intermittent conflict, there remain an additional 360,000 long-term displaced people to consider who may now also wish to return to their communities of origin. We stand ready to support this work through funding international agencies that: (1) provide humanitarian demining activities; (2) enable returns through the provision of transport, shelter and access to basic services; and (3) provide livelihood recovery activities, for example through cash grants, providing seeds and tools and vocational training.

Taxation: Tax Benefit Reference Manual

Statement

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

Copies of the 2009-10 edition of the Tax Benefit Reference Manual (TBRM) are today being deposited in the House of Commons Library.

HM Treasury publishes the TBRM annually. It is a technical manual detailing the tax and benefit system, describing both the current and historic regimes.

UK Intellectual Property Office: Performance Targets

Statement

My right honourable friend the Minister for Higher Education and Intellectual Property (David Lammy) has made the following Statement.

I have tasked the Intellectual Property Office with managing and shaping an intellectual property system which encourages innovation and creativity, balances the needs of rights-holders and the public, provides support to businesses on managing and exploiting their intellectual property, and stimulates economic growth.

I have set the Intellectual Property Office a broad range of targets for 2009-10 based on a balanced scorecard approach. These targets are:

Customers and stakeholders

a substantive response to an allowable request for accelerated patent examination to be issued within two months of receipt in 90 per cent of searched applications;

give good customer service in processing patent applications in 95 per cent of quality assured cases;

issue 80 per cent of patent searches within four months of request;

the correct decision on registration will be made on at least 98.5 per cent of trade mark applications;

90 per cent of trade mark applications (to which no substantive objections have been raised or oppositions filed) to be registered within seven months;

95 per cent of correctly filed design applications to be registered within two months;

develop a cross-government international IP strategy which has been agreed by Whitehall ministerial or senior official group by February 2010;

the IPO Intelligence Hub will be seen by industry and enforcement agencies as the lead player in co-ordination and dissemination of IP crime-related intelligence;

industry and law enforcement agencies will give positive feedback on awareness-raising and training activities;

to increase the understanding of British business and society about how to make the best use of the IP system, a third venue for the Science Museum exhibition will have been identified and agreement for an exhibition be in place by December 2009;

evaluation of the Science Museum exhibition will demonstrate positive impact and value for money and provide information for future outreach work;

extend our outreach to business through use of our online IP Health Check, and over 66 per cent of respondents will report it as useful; and

to demonstrate we deliver high quality services to our customers we will receive “good” or “satisfactory” ratings in at least 80 per cent of responses to customer surveys.

Finance and resources

we will demonstrate we are able to maintain a sustainable trading fund by delivering a 4 per cent return on capital employed; and

deliver a 5 per cent cost efficiency with reference to 2008-09 cost outturn (excluding VER/VES scheme and Science Museum IP exhibition sponsorship one-off costs).

Internal processes

complete 95 per cent of staff performance reviews (to ensure everyone understands how their work contributed to the 2008-09 corporate plan and how they will be expected to perform to enable delivery of the four pillars in 2009-10) signed off and returned to HR by 31 May 2009;

to reduce our impact on the environment, increase proportion of waste recycled to 60 per cent;

to reduce our impact on the environment, reduce carbon emissions by 10 per cent compared to 2008-09 figures;

promote a healthy environment and reduce numbers of sick absence days per person to 7.0 days; and

to enable business effectiveness through reliable IT systems, achieve 99 per cent of the agreed monthly service levels for key IT systems.

Change and development

positive feedback from participants of international forum on the economic value of IP;

a plan will be agreed by SABIP and IPO for commissioning items of research;

two of these SABIP research projects to be completed and reports received;

contracts to be awarded on a further two of these SABIP research projects;

introduce new trade mark fees and services in October 2009 to maintain registration in the UK as an attractive option vis-à-vis registration at OHIM;

national and international stakeholders will report increased awareness of our work on copyright strategy;

ensure that the IPO has developed a co-ordinated strategy on mutual recognition and promote that strategy with key international partners. Gain agreement on mutual recognition with Japan by March 2010;

memorandums of understanding on work sharing signed with Korea and China in 2009; and

policy skills audit will be carried out and a targeted training and development programme devised by autumn 2009.