The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): I am pleased to announce that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence has appointed Mrs. Alison Gallico, Professor Derek Leslie and retired Air-Vice Marshall Ian Stewart, for a three-year term of office as members of the armed forces pay review body, commencing March 2005. These appointments have been conducted in accordance with the guidance of the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): Today, I am pleased to announce that I have set the following performance targets for 200405 for the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science.
The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Margaret Beckett): I am publishing today the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs five-year strategy, "Delivering the Essentials of Life". Copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses and are available from the Defra web site at: www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/5year-strategy/index.htm/.
Defra was created to integrate farming, rural and environment policy across the board. It already has a substantial track record of achievement. The new strategy shows how we plan to move forward in the priority areas of environmental leadership at all levels, caring for rural communities and delivering a sustainable future for farming.
This strategy sets out concrete measures to accelerate Britain's transformation from environmental laggard to environmental leader. The environment starts on our doorstep. Our Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill contains new powers to tackle the blight of litter, fly-tipping, graffiti and abandoned cars. We want to help make it easier for business and families to be green. Our new partnership with supermarkets will increase recycling by hundreds of thousands of tonnes. It sets out plans to tackle climate change through action to make our schools, our homes and our workplaces more energy-efficient and to help businesses save money by saving energy.
Defra was created to care for rural communities. We know that the priority issue for those who want to live or work in rural areas is the lack of affordable rural housing. So we are changing the planning guidance to make it easier to build affordable rural homes where they are needed.
We are already embarked in a partnership with farming for a sustainable future. The single farm payment and whole farm approach will create "one form, one date and one face from Government"and is part of our promise to cut red tape.
Achieving this vision will mean Defra becoming a different kind of Departmentfocused on the successful achievement of clear outcomes, and with strengthened capacity for delivery. By March 2008 the core Department will be some 60 per cent. smaller than when Defra was created, a reduction from the 8,000 people in the core department when Defra was formed in 2001, to around 3,200 in 2008.
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw):
I will today lay before the House Command Paper 6429, containing the final text of the EU constitutional treaty signed by Heads of State and Government in Rome on 29 October. Copies will be placed in the Library of the House and the Vote Office. The final treaty can also be accessed on the FCO website: www.fco.gov.uk/.
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An explanatory memorandum will be laid with the Command Paper. The White Papers (September 2003 Cm 5934 and September 2004 Cm 6309) give further information about the Government's negotiations on the text, and explanation of its contents.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Charlotte Atkins): Today I am announcing the publication of new "Guidance on Local Transport Plans", and on "Accessibility Planning in Local Transport Plans". Most English local transport authorities outside London are required, by the Transport Act 2000, to prepare local transport plans in accordance with this statutory guidance. The guidance requires provisional local transport plans by July 2005 and final versions by March 2006.
The new guidance on local transport plans describes how the Government expect those authorities to plan and deliver better transport from 2006 to 2011. It aims to transform the vital public service of local transport planning, ensuring this service not only delivers solutions to local transport problems, but also delivers a range of other opportunities to people, and improves their wider quality of life. Most local authorities are required, in particular, to plan better access to employment and services for people at risk of social exclusion. This is the subject of the accompanying detailed guidance on accessibility planning.
As part of the Government's commitment to sustained investment in better local transport, I am also setting out, in the form of provisional planning guidelines for local highway maintenance and integrated transport, our intention to provide sustained and stable investment for smaller local authority transport schemes and maintenance schemes. These provisional planning guidelines, amounting to £6.5 billion over the period 200611, will help authorities to develop ambitious and realistic new local transport plans.
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The Minister for Work (Jane Kennedy): In the spending review 2004 announcement my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer asked the former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, my right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, East (Mr. Smith) to undertake a review of long term sickness absence management in the public sector. He also asked the Minister for the Cabinet Office and the Cabinet Secretary to review the current arrangements for the self certification of short-term absence in the civil service.
Many of the issues around managing attendance affect both long and short-term sickness absence. The two strands of work have therefore been brought together in a single review, produced jointly by the ministerial task force for health, safety and productivity and the Cabinet Office, following consultation with stakeholders. I have today placed a copy of the review in the Library.
We found evidence that good practice exists in a number of areas, but that previous initiatives to reduce sickness absence had failed to deliver their objectives. We have concluded that the main areas for further action are the need to:
In combination, these are the factors that we identified in public and in private sector case studies as being central to successful absence management. We will also pilot a range of more specific ideas for managing short and long-term absence.