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Written Statements

Volume 715: debated on Monday 30 November 2009

Written Statements

Monday 30 November 2009

Armed Forces: Aircraft

Statement

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

I am announcing today that the Ministry of Defence is beginning formal consultation with the trade unions on a proposed programme of reductions at the Defence Support Group’s (DSG) Large Aircraft Business Unit (LABU) at St Athan, in South Wales designed to achieve closure of the facility by June 2013 at the latest.

The LABU provides maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services to the RAF’s VC-10 air refuelling and tanker aircraft under contract from BAE Systems. MRO work at the LABU will decline significantly after December 2010 when contract activity will reduce by 70 per cent as the last major VC-10 maintenance activity is completed. Minor maintenance of the VC-10 will continue through to closure of the facility.

Despite the best efforts of MoD and DSG management there is insufficient new work to sustain current staff numbers and maintain the viability of the business over the medium to long term. MoD believes it is therefore critical to DSG’s continued effectiveness and efficiency as a trading fund to reduce the LABU’s capacity and capability in a phased manner commensurate with the unit’s declining workload. This is expected to involve an initial reduction of up to 200 personnel by December 2010 with the balance of around 139 staff leaving no later than June 2013. We have explored the possibilities for finding alternative uses for the capacity at St Athan but none has materialised, and though we continue to remain open to viable alternative suggestions I believe it would be irresponsible, and not in the interests of the workforce, to delay decisions any further.

In parallel with its consultation with the trade unions, MoD will continue to work with other government departments and agencies to explore future job opportunities for DSG employees who would be affected by the drawdown and closure of the facility. The option of retraining and transferring LABU personnel to other DSG sites would also be maximised where this meets business needs and individuals’ preferences. DSG will also work closely with external training providers and agencies such as Careers Wales, Job Centre Plus and other advisory organisations to explore alternative training and job opportunities for any employees wanting to retrain for an alternative career.

In conclusion, I pay tribute to the outstanding service that DSG St Athan personnel, both past and present, have provided and the pivotal role they have played in supporting the UK Armed Forces with the vital equipment needed on critical operations both at home and overseas.

Armed Forces: Reserve Forces Call-out

Statement

My honourable friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Bill Rammell) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

A call-out order has been made under Section 56 of the Reserve Forces Act 1996 to enable the call out of members of the Volunteer Reserve Forces to assist with flood relief operations in the United Kingdom. The order takes effect from 26 November 2009 and ceases to have effect on 25 November 2010. Currently, we envisage deploying up to 100 reservists for up to 14 days.

The individuals concerned will come from the 42 North West Brigade staff, 4th Battalion the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, the local TA infantry battalion and members of the High Readiness Reserves (HRR) from 2 Signal Brigade. The HRR personnel will be called out under powers (Section 32 of the Reserve Forces Act 1996) already delegated to the SJC (UK). It is planned that the reservists will be required for the entire duration; estimates suggest the operation will last up to eight days.

Banking: Asset Protection

Statement

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

In my 3 November Statement to the House, I set out a number of changes to the Royal Bank of Scotland’s proposed participation in the asset protection scheme. On the same day, the Treasury laid a minute in Parliament reporting the associated contingent liability. As this set out, while the material commercial issues had been agreed with RBS, full legal documents were at that stage still being finalised.

These legal documents have now been finalised and agreements were therefore signed last week. The agreements remain subject to state aid approval by the European Commission as well as approval by RBS’s shareholders.

I said in my Statement that I would provide Parliament with full details of the operation of the scheme when the final agreements are signed and approved by the Commission. I now expect to make this information available to Parliament by 7 December, possibly before the Commission gives its final state aid approval, depending on the timing of that approval. When I do so, legal agreements—subject only to any necessary redactions to protect commercial interests—will be placed in the House Library, together with information on the assets covered by the APS.

Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting

Statement

My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has made the following Statement.

The Commonwealth Heads of Government met in their 60th anniversary year in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, from 27 to 29 November.

Her Majesty the Queen attended the biennial meeting for the 19th time in her role as Head of the Commonwealth. Leaders paid tribute to her dedication and commitment to the Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth continues to show, through its diversity and by its actions, its continued importance as we work together to address the great global challenges.

Many Commonwealth countries, such as Bangladesh, the Maldives and the Caribbean and Pacific Islands, are among those most vulnerable to climate change. So this was a unique opportunity for leaders of one third of the world's population to address the key issues which must be resolved in the Copenhagen agreement. The special session was addressed by Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen, who is organising next month's conference in Copenhagen, by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and by President Sarkozy.

The Commonwealth agreed to the British proposal for a Copenhagen Launch Fund to provide immediate assistance to developing countries to tackle climate change. We agreed that this fund should start next year and rise to $10 billion annually in 2012, with a further scaling up of financial assistance to 2020.

With 89 leaders now committed to attending Copenhagen, the Commonwealth backed the Danish Prime Minister's plan for a “comprehensive, substantial and operationally binding agreement in Copenhagen leading towards a full legally binding outcome no later than 2010” and so, while no one should be in any doubt how much there is still to do to secure an agreement that will limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees, the Commonwealth has helped to lay the foundations for this: an agreement on which our future prosperity and security depend.

And it is fitting also, in its 60th year, for the Commonwealth to have made the biggest advance in its history towards free healthcare for its citizens. The agreement—the Commonwealth Health Compact—to remove user fees and provide healthcare free at the point of use could change the lives of millions and mean that mothers are no longer forced to choose between sending their children to the doctor or sending them to school. This is the first time in history that over 50 countries have collectively committed to free healthcare, an announcement with the potential to reach nearly one third of the world's population.

I met the Secretary-General of the United Nations principally to discuss Afghanistan. We then held a joint press conference to announce the London conference on Afghanistan on 28 January 2010. I shall be making a Statement to Parliament about our policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan today.

The Commonwealth echoed UK calls for a new social contract between the financial sector and the public to rebalance risk and reward and called on the IMF to look at all options in its forthcoming review.

The Commonwealth also sent a strong message to the Government of Zimbabwe faithfully and effectively to implement the global political agreement. On this basis it looked forward to conditions being right for Zimbabwe to rejoin the Commonwealth in the future.

Leaders agreed that Australia would host the 2011 summit.

It was agreed to include a commitment to looking at strengthening the organisation and ensuring all of its democratic values and principles are upheld. With half of the Commonwealth's two billion citizens under the age of 25, we have a duty to be a forward-looking group of nations. The Commonwealth continues to provide a unique forum in which to bring together developed and developing countries, large and small economies, to unite in recognition of their shared history and to determine their shared future.

Copies of the concluding communiqué have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Counterterrorism

Statement

My honourable friend the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Sarah McCarty-Fry) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

In a Written Ministerial Statement on 10 October 2006, the then Economic Secretary, Ed Balls, undertook to report to Parliament on a quarterly basis on the operation of the UK’s counterterrorism asset-freezing regime.

This is the 12th of these reports and covers the period July to September 2009.1

Asset-Freezing Designations

In the quarter July to September 2009, the Treasury gave no directions under the Al-Qaeda and Taliban (United Nations Measures) Order 2006. The Treasury revoked no directions given under this order.

The Treasury gave two directions under the Terrorism (United Nations Measures) Order 2009. None of these was in respect of individuals already designated under earlier orders.

There were no financial sanctions designations made at the UN, or at the EU in relation to terrorism or al-Qaeda and the Taliban of persons with links to the UK.

As of 30 September 2009, a total of 247 accounts containing £580,000 of suspected terrorists’ funds were frozen in the UK.

Reviews under the Terrorism Order 2006

The Treasury keeps domestic asset-freezing cases under review and completed two formal reviews this quarter; both individuals remained designated under the Terrorism Order 2006.

Licensing

Licensing is the means by which the UK gives effect to exemptions in asset-freezing provisions whether related to UN or EC regulations or domestic terrorism legislation. Each licence is considered on a case-by-case basis. The key objective of the licensing system is to strike a balance between minimising the risk of diversion of funds to terrorism and the humanitarian rights of the individuals and third parties affected.

Thirty-five licences were issued this quarter in relation to individuals and/or entities subject to an asset freeze under the Al-Qaeda and Taliban, and Terrorism Orders.

Litigation

On 5 to 8 October 2009 the Supreme Court heard the case of G and Ors V HM Treasury. This challenged the legality and proportionality of the Al-Qaeda (United Nation Measures) Order 2006 and the Terrorism (United Nations Measures) Order 2009. We await judgment.

Developments

The Terrorism (United Nations Order) 2009 came into force on 10 August 2009 and will continue to apply until August 2010 unless revoked sooner. The 2009 order replaces and revokes the Terrorism (United Nations Order) 2006. The key aims of the amendments in the new order are to tailor asset-freezing restrictions to ensure that the prohibitions are focused on areas of genuine operational concern, and to strengthen and make more explicit the safeguards in how the regime is operated. The key changes under the Terrorism Order 2009 include:

safeguards that all designations must be necessary for the protection of the public;

that designations will now expire after 12 months unless reviewed and renewed within that period; and

modifications to the prohibitions, particularly provisions regarding the making available of funds and economic resources for the benefit of a designated person.

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.

Equality Bill: Seafarers

Statement

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

Some three years ago, the European Commission informed the Government that it had received a complaint relating to Section 9 (s9) of the Race Relations Act 1976 (RRA 1976), which permits wage differentiation on the ground of nationality against a seafarer who was recruited abroad. We accept that this provision appears to be inconsistent with EC law, to the extent that it allows pay differentiation to the disadvantage of seafarers from other EC or EEA states or others with corresponding rights in EC law.

Additionally, the Commission has since raised concerns regarding Section 8 (s8) of the RRA 1976 in that it states that an employee working wholly outside Great Britain has to be ordinarily resident in Great Britain, in order to be protected from discrimination on racial grounds. The Commission views this as being unjustifiably indirectly discriminatory and contrary to Articles 39 EC and 7(1) of Regulation 1612/68 when applied to EC and EEA nationals and others with corresponding rights in EC law.

If enacted, the Equality Bill will bring together and restate the majority of existing domestic discrimination legislation including the RRA 1976. It therefore provides an opportunity to address both of the Commission’s concerns.

The Equality Bill is silent as to where it applies, so this will generally be for the courts and tribunals to determine. As far as the Part 5 (work) provisions are concerned, this approach is acceptable for most workers, who at any given time are within either the territory of the United Kingdom or some other territory. However, seafarers work on ships that may be constantly moving between waters under the jurisdiction of different States. Clause 78 of the Equality Bill therefore provides for Ministers to specify in regulations which seafarers on which ships, and which crew on which hovercraft, the employment provisions apply to. This enables Ministers to take account of international law and custom and the global practices of the shipping industry when deciding exactly how Part 5 is to apply to seafarers.

The regulation-making power in Clause 78 of the Bill is wide enough for the regulations to allow the differential pay practice to continue although, following the concerns raised by the European Commission regarding EC, EEA and other relevant seafarers, any replacement for Section 9 would have to take a more narrowly drawn form.

A key factor to consider before deciding whether to bring forward a more narrowly drawn replacement for Section 9 is the likely financial effect on industry of the different possible options.

Today, therefore, I am publishing draft regulations, which would be subject to the affirmative procedure in Parliament, showing how the Government currently propose that Part 5 of the Bill should apply to seafarers.

Regulations 3(1) and 4 of the draft regulations would apply the employment provisions of the Bill to every seafarer on a UK ship with a port of choice in Great Britain, so long as the seafarer either works at least partly in Great Britain, or is a UK or other EEA national (or has corresponding EC law rights) and has an employment relationship sufficiently linked to Great Britain. Regulation 3(2) would extend the employment provisions to ships flagged to other EEA countries while they are in UK waters, but only for the benefit of those seafarers who fulfil the criteria in regulation 3(3)(b) to (d).

Regulation 3(2) requires further work across Government before a final version of the regulations can be laid before Parliament for approval.

The draft regulations are currently silent on the issue of differential pay. If the regulations were made in the form of the published draft, the practice of nationality-based pay differentials would become unlawful. However, I have today written to a number of stakeholders seeking evidence-based financial estimates of the likely impact of either:

outlawing the practice altogether; or

continuing to allow the payment of differential rates to seafarers but only where such differentiation would not operate to the disadvantage of nationals of any EC or EEA state (or any other state whose nationals are entitled to corresponding rights under EC law) nor to that of seafarers recruited in Great Britain, and the difference in rates would correspond to a difference in the costs of living in the places where the seafarers respectively habitually reside.

Copies of the draft regulations have been placed in the Library of the House.

Once I have considered any responses submitted, I will report back to Parliament.

EU: Competitiveness Council

Statement

My right honourable friend the Minister of State (Higher Education and Intellectual Property) has today made the following Statement.

The EU Competitiveness Council will take place in Brussels on 3 and 4 December and this Statement covers the business to be taken at the council. Kevin Brennan, BIS Minister for Consumer Affairs, will represent the UK on consumer issues on 3 December, I shall represent the UK on patents and other issues on 4 December and Andy Lebrecht, the UK's Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU, will represent the UK when a Minister is not in attendance.

The main items on the agenda are agreement on an enhanced patent system for Europe, proposals for a consumer rights directive, a council regulation on a European private company statute, progress on better regulation and Competitiveness Council contributions to the post-2010 Lisbon agenda on EU competitiveness.

Other substantive items include the adoption of a council resolution on enhanced governance of the European research area, on future priorities for European research and research-based innovation, the future of information communications technology (ICT) research, and progress on joint programming, in particular through a joint programming initiative to fight neurodegenerative diseases, particularly Alzheimer’s.

The consumer-related any other business (AOB) items will be dealt with on 3 December after the policy debate on the consumer rights directive. I have set out below the other AOB items:

AOB items

Information from the Commission on the international thermonuclear experimental reactor (ITER) project.

Commission communication on investing in the development of a low-carbon technologies strategic energy technology (SET) plan).

Commission information on a proposal for a European Parliament and council decision on participation in a joint Baltic Sea research and development programme undertaken by several member states.

Communication on global monitoring for environment and security (GMES): challenges and next steps for the space component.

Declaration of Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania on the integrated proposal to implement project ELI (extreme light infrastructure) of the ESFRI (European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures) Roadmap.

Presentation by Commission on cross-border business to consumer e-commerce in the EU.

Presidency information on the Stockholm conference of 4 November 2009, “Consumer rights when purchasing digital content”.

Belgian delegation request on latest developments regarding Opel and GM.

Presidency information on legal framework for gambling and betting in EU member states.

Presidency information on proposal for a regulation laying down harmonised conditions for the marketing of construction products.

Better regulation presentation of a practical exercise on sharing good examples.

Google books—information from the Commission.

Work programme of the incoming presidency from the Spanish delegation.

The Government's main aims will be:

to agree a resolution to strengthen the political governance of the European research area and adopt conclusions on carrying forward joint programming initiatives such as fighting neurodegenerative diseases and on providing guidance on future priorities for research and innovation in the post-2010 Lisbon strategy;

to support the aims of the consumer rights directive but ensure that it meets an appropriate level of consumer protection;

to reach agreement on an enhanced patent system in Europe; and

to provide UK support for an EU post-Lisbon 2010 competitiveness strategy that will focus on economic growth, skills and innovation, and a strong EU single market.

EU: Environment Council

Statement

I represented the UK at the extraordinary Environment Council in Brussels on 23 November, where EU Environment Ministers undertook a final review of positions and strategies ahead of the climate change conference in Copenhagen in December.

The council began with presentations from COP President Denmark and UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer on the path to Copenhagen. The Commission followed these with a presentation on the current status of the EU's emissions and other parties' offers. Norway was also invited to present its views on the role of reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

Ministers continued discussions at a closed session. Guided by questions prepared by the Swedish presidency, Ministers discussed the EU's goals and priorities for the Copenhagen conference. At the request of the presidency, the UK presented its views on registries and measurement, reporting and verification.

While there were no formal conclusions, Ministers confirmed the EU's mandate for negotiation that was established at the Environment Council in October and then endorsed at the European Council. Ministers also reaffirmed the need to maintain EU ambitions for the forthcoming conference, with many member states emphasising the importance of upholding the EU's conditional offer for a 30 per cent emissions reduction to leverage sufficient offers from others.

Health: Innovation Pass

Statement

My right honourable friend the Minister of State, Department of Health (Mike O’Brien) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Government published a public consultation on proposals for an innovation pass pilot on 27 November 2009. The innovation pass will make selected innovative medicines available on the National Health Service for a time limited period, from a ring-fenced budget, while further evidence on their benefits is gathered.

The Government announced the introduction of an innovation pass pilot in the Office for Life Sciences Blueprint published in July 2009. This brought together a coherent package of measures to maintain a competitive life sciences industry, an industry that is crucial to the United Kingdom from both a health and economic perspective. One of the key actions made a commitment for the department to introduce an innovation pass with NICE.

The proposals for the innovation pass have been developed for medicines for small patient populations which have the potential to deliver improved patient outcomes but where data to demonstrate cost-effectiveness are so far limited. The pass will be a three-year initiative which will make selected innovative medicines available on the NHS in England for a time-limited period, prior to a NICE appraisal. The pass will be funded from a ring-fenced £25 million budget in 2010-11. Funding for future years will be determined in the context of the next spending review.

It is important to ensure that the creation of the innovation pass does not in any way undermine the vital role of NICE in providing authoritative advice to the NHS on the clinical and cost-effectiveness of health interventions. This is why medicines covered by the innovation pass will still go through a NICE appraisal after a maximum of three years. NICE will also play a key part in running the process for the pass.

The consultation seeks views on the Government proposals for the innovation pass pilot. The proposals will be revised in light of the responses received and will also be reviewed over the first 12 months of the pilot.

The pass has the potential to bring benefit to NHS patients in England providing earlier access to innovative medicines for patients with the greatest need. At the same time, the pass will facilitate the collection of further information to support a subsequent NICE appraisal, which will mean in the longer term the relevant NICE appraisals will be based on stronger evidence.

The consultation document has been placed in the Library and copies are available to honourable Members from the Vote Office.

Legal Deposit Libraries

Statement

My right honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Margaret Hodge) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003 (the “2003 Act”) requires publishers to deliver a copy of every printed work published in the United Kingdom to the British Library and the other five legal deposit libraries upon their request. It also provides for regulations to be made which widen the scope of legal deposit to include non-print publications.

The Legal Deposit Advisory Panel (LDAP) was established in September 2005 following a ministerial undertaking made during the Second Reading of the 2003 Act in the House of Lords. It is an advisory panel of people appointed by Ministers and others acting in an ex-officio capacity, including representatives from the legal deposit libraries, the publishing sector and independent members. Its primary purpose is to make recommendations on the extension of the legal deposit regime to non-print materials.

LDAP has worked at arm’s length from Government and developed its own work programme concentrating on three areas of non-print material for the collection and preservation of:

(a) UK Offline and Microforms Publications;

(b) UK Online Publications, free of charge and without access restrictions; and

(c) commercial and protected e-content (those publications requiring subscription, password, or some other compliance by users).

To date it has provided a recommendation on (a) and (b) above.

Lord Evans, during the Second Reading of the Legal Deposit Libraries Bill in the House of Lords on 12 September 2003, made an undertaking that the initial set of regulations would be restricted to offline publications (a).

However, the Legal Deposit Advisory Panel has recommended a self-regulated voluntary system of deposit in respect of these materials, with active requesting by libraries. We have considered the detailed proposals provided and are content to accept its recommendation, and will therefore not be making regulations in that area for the present time, although we reserve the right to monitor their collection, and should the need arise we will regulate accordingly under the powers available to us in the 2003 Act.

We will shortly commence a full and detailed consultation on its recommendations for (b), with a view to producing regulations in that area. LDAP has started work on (c) and is due to report back to me on its progress in March 2010.

Northern Ireland: Bill of Rights

Statement

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

I am pleased to announce that I am today publishing a consultation paper on a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland.

The need for an additional human rights framework that reflects the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland was recognised in the Belfast agreement and given shape through the commitment to set up a Bill of Rights Forum as part of the St Andrews agreement. The launch of a consultation on a Bill of Rights follows through on those commitments.

I am very grateful to the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission for its commitment and energy in leading the debate on a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland and for its wide ranging and thorough advice to the Government, which has greatly informed this consultation paper and has made a substantial contribution to the debate on rights and responsibilities across the UK.

A positive future for the people of Northern Ireland must be firmly based on partnership, equality and mutual respect. Over the past 12 years, but particularly since the restoration of devolution in May 2007, Northern Ireland has made huge progress in building that positive future. The fundamental principle of mutual respect for the rights and freedoms of all the people of Northern Ireland has been at the heart of this progress, and still has a crucial role to play in its future success. For that reason, I urge everyone with the best interests of Northern Ireland at heart to study this consultation paper carefully and to give their views.

The consultation process will run until 1 March. Copies of the consultation paper will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Regional Development Agencies: Board Appointments

Statement

My right honourable friend the Minister for Regional Economic Co-Ordination (Rosie Winterton) has today made the following Statement.

I am pleased to announce that I have decided to appoint 14 RDA board members, who between them will serve four of our regional development agencies and Pat McFadden has agreed to appoint two new members to the Board of Yorkshire Forward. I have also agreed, following approval from the Commissioner for Public Appointments, to extend for a further year the trade union position on the Board of East of England Development Agency while the vacancy is being filled. The names of the successful candidates are listed below.

RDA

Board member appointees

Position appointed

Advantage West Midlands

Kumar Muthalagappan OBE

Business

Edward Turpie

Business

Cllr Roger Phillips

Local Authority

Prof Madeleine Atkins

Education

East of England Development Agency

Colin Riordan

Education

Karen Livingstone

Trade Union

South East England Development Agency

Cllr Keith House

Local Authority

Andrew Finney

Local Authority

Richard Ascough

Trade Union

Prof Julian Crampton

Education

South West Regional Development Agency

David Fursdon

Business

Peter (Joseph) Moore

Business

Christopher Lewis

Local Authority

Cllr Philip Young

Local Authority

Catherine Bakewell MBE

Local Authority

Yorkshire Forward

Heidi Mottram

Business

Sharon Allen

Voluntary/Community

The RDAs are playing a crucial role in supporting the national and regional economies through these tough economic conditions and providing help to businesses and individuals in order that the regions are in the strongest possible position for the future. All the appointees bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to their RDA which will be extremely important in adding value to the contribution that the board can make.

The appointments will commence on the 14 December 2009 for a period of three years, expiring in December 2012.

I have placed further details of these appointments, including biographies, in the Libraries of both Houses. I can confirm that the appointments were made in accordance with the Commissioner for Public Appointments code of practice.

Regional Development Agencies: East Midlands

Statement

I am pleased to announce the extension of the appointment of Bryan Jackson, chair of the Board of the East Midlands Regional Development Agency (RDA), for up to one year to 13 December 2011.

The RDA’s are playing a crucial role in supporting the national and regional economies through these tough economic conditions and providing help to businesses and individuals in order that the regions are in the strongest possible position for the future. Bryan will bring proven experience and leadership.

I have placed further details of the extension, including Bryan Jackson’s biography, in the Libraries of both Houses. I can confirm that the extension has been made in accordance with the Commissioner for Public Appointments code of practice.

Schools: Capital Investment

Statement

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

Local authorities and their representative organisations have been in discussion with us for a number of months over how best to respond to unexpected increases in demand for pupil places in primary schools.

There has been a sustained increase in the birth rate nationally since 2001, which is now feeding through to primary schools. The Government have already made available funding to deal with projected pupil growth through allocations made to local authorities for the period 2008-09 to 2010-11.

Local authorities, generally, have good systems in place to plan for increasing demand for pupil places. However, local authorities have told us that pupil numbers are higher than expected in some areas as a result of a combination of localised factors: changes in the housing market in the current economic climate, and also increased demand in the state sector due to better local schools and in some cases less demand for independent places. As a result it has been particularly difficult for some authorities accurately to forecast demand and plan to provide the places needed for reception-age pupils over the next few years. I commend the efforts that have been made to provide a place for every child this September.

In July I announced that I would make available £200 million of capital to support the neediest authorities provide additional places by 2011, and invited applications. Since July there have been extensive discussions with individual authorities and with representative bodies including the Local Government Association, London councils, and the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, on how best to allocate this funding.

As a result of these discussions we have revised the eligibility criteria and methodology for additional funding. Authorities that did not originally apply will have the opportunity to discuss with my department whether they are eligible for funding under the revised criteria.

I have also decided to increase the funding we are allocating to primary capital places to £300 million. Thirty-four authorities that have applied will receive additional funding, the details of which are shown in the table below. The funding announced today will create an estimated additional 15,000 new primary places. Successful local authorities will be expected to build the extra permanent places by September 2011 and money may be held back from future capital funding allocations where actual pupil numbers fall short of predictions.

I believe it is right to give additional funding, on top of record capital investment, to build extra classrooms and facilities in areas facing sudden increases in demand which could not reasonably have been forecast. Housing children in mobile or hired classrooms is only a temporary solution—so it is vital that local authorities facing the greatest pressure on their capital budgets address these issues urgently using the funding I am now making available and in the longer-term through the Primary Capital Programme.

In the medium and longer terms, funding school places, and in particular responding to the increase in demand for primary school places, will be a priority from 2011, so that there is a good permanent place for every child where it is wanted. Partnerships for Schools, which since October has had responsibility for the delivery of schools capital programmes, is setting up a working group which will include representative bodies, to consider how best to allocate and target funding to ensure that this happens.

I am also today announcing the 11 local authorities which will be joining the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme for the first time. BSF is the most ambitious public building programme for decades, revamping the entire secondary school estate. The authorities joining today are Brent, Darlington, Devon, Havering, Kingston, Croydon, Norfolk, Plymouth, Sefton, Wakefield, and Warrington. Another two—Lancashire and Tameside—will be starting the next phases of their BSF schemes. Planning and building on these schemes will begin between January and March 2010. These additions bring the total number of local authorities in England which are active in BSF to 96.

The BSF projects announced today will join more than 1,000 individual rebuilding or renewal BSF projects already under way. Momentum has built quickly this year. One hundred and twenty-nine schools which have benefited from BSF investment are now open—more than double the number open in December 2008.

Primary Capital Allocations

Barking and Dagenham

18,388,000

Barnet

1,000,000

Birmingham

24,319,000

Blackpool

6,060,000

Bolton

3,320,000

Bournemouth

6,011,000

Bradford

11,009,000

Brent

14,766,000

Brighton and Hove

5,700,000

Camden

1,000,000

Coventry

7,427,000

Croydon

12,834,000

Ealing

4,006,000

Enfield

6,941,000

Haringey

8,570,000

Kingston upon Thames

8,185,000

Lambeth

9,002,000

Leeds

1,762,000

Luton

15,504,000

Manchester

6,808,000

Newham

17,464,000

North Somerset

1,000,000

Peterborough

5,257,000

Redbridge

3,460,000

Richmond

3,327,000

Sheffield

13,778,000

Slough

8,986,000

Southampton

1,000,000

Southwark

12,063,000

Swindon

6,374,000

Thurrock

2,563,000

Trafford

1,000,000

Waltham Forest

4,234,000

Wandsworth

17,902,000

Senior Salaries Review Body

Statement

My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has made the following Statement.

The SSRB was commissioned to undertake a review into the financial assistance available to Members of the House of Lords in recognition that the expenses regime was now outdated and we needed to move to a system that would be more transparent and ensure greater accountability.

I am today publishing the SSRB's report, which I accept. In doing so, I wish to record my gratitude to Bill Cockburn and SSRB members for undertaking such a thorough and comprehensive review. Copies of the report have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. For the Government, the Leader of the Lords will now work with other Members of the House of Lords to take forward its implementation.

Taxation: Double Taxation

Statement

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

A new protocol to the double taxation agreement with Oman was signed on 26 November 2009. The text of the protocol has been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses and made available on HM Revenue and Customs’ website. The text will be scheduled to a draft Order in Council and laid before the House of Commons in due course.