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Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 28 November 2005


School Teachers' Review Body

The Secretary of State for Education and Skills (Ruth Kelly): I have received the 15th report of the School Teachers' Review Body and expect to publish this, alongside my response, on 6 December.


Farm Regulation

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Jim Knight): The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 2004 regulation taskforce report highlighted the need for a new approach to the regulation of farming. Earlier this year, the Government renewed their commitment to regulating better and cutting bureaucratic burdens for industry, in the wake of the Better Regulation Task Force report, "Regulation—Less is More" and Sir Philip Hampton's review on inspection and enforcement.

I am therefore pleased to announce the launch today of Partners for Success, DEFRA's farm regulation and charging strategy, which is the first Government strategy to apply this new better regulation agenda to a specific sector of the economy.

The strategy heralds a new partnership between the Government and the farming industry, with a long-term vision for the future of regulation and charging.

By improving the way we regulate and enforce farm regulation, we will make it easier for farmers to comply, helping to improve the long-term sustainability of the sector: environmental, social, and economic.

The strategy commits us to cutting red tape for farmers, notably by reducing form-filling. This is part of DEFRA's commitment to reduce administrative burdens on business by 25 per cent. by 2009. It will help make regulation more efficient from the perspective of the customer, and help them to focus on getting results—on productivity, the environment, animal health and welfare, food safety, and worker health and safety.

Farmers too will need to play their part in making the strategy a reality, especially by managing the risks of their operations and reducing the unwelcome impacts of their activities.

Input from farmers, their representative bodies, wider rural interests, regulators and Government Departments has been invaluable in shaping the strategy. We will continue to work together over the next six months to develop success criteria for the strategy.
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I am placing copies of the strategy and the accompanying action plan in both Libraries of the House.


Global Health Security Initiative

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Ms Rosie Winterton): On Friday 18 November, I attended the sixth ministerial forum of the Global Health Security Initiative (GHSI) in Rome, to agree actions to ensure a co-ordinated global response to health security issues, including preparing for an influenza pandemic.

Actions agreed at the meeting included:

The United Kingdom has played an active role in developing and taking forward several areas of the GHSI's work programme. The GHSI was launched at a meeting of international Health Ministers in Ottawa in 2001. Membership includes representatives of the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico and United States together with the WHO and the European Commission for Health. The aims of the GHSI are to develop and implement co-operative, specialised public health protection measures in the event of a terrorist or natural incident.

In partnership with the USA, the UK has played a leading role in taking work forward on pandemic influenza. In June this year, the UK hosted a workshop on modelling pandemic spread and control strategies and an international tabletop exercise on preparedness and response. This event brought together modellers from each of the eight GHSI countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the UK and the USA) to discuss potential response strategies at each stage of an emerging pandemic. Important work has also been undertaken to compare the pandemic influenza preparedness and response plans between countries to facilitate better planning and coordination.

At the meeting, Health Ministers agreed a programme of action to ensure that national pandemic planning continues to dovetail with international planning and that we communicate effectively both nationally and internationally. We recognised the importance of ensuring our populations and healthcare
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professionals have the high quality, consistent international information they need to manage the consequences of an outbreak of pandemic flu.

In addition, we agreed to share information and expertise to speed up the development and production of a pandemic flu vaccine. We also agreed to work together to boost global capacity for pandemic flu vaccine.

Together with Canada, the UK has also led on work in the area of risk management and communication. A 24/7 emergency contact network for emergency communications is in place and several successful international communication exercises have been undertaken.

A copy of the final ministerial statement from the Rome conference has been placed in the Library.


Transport Innovation Fund

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Alistair Darling): I am today announcing the names of seven local authorities which have bid successfully for funding to develop innovative schemes to tackle congestion, including work on the feasibility of road pricing.

In July, I said that the way to the long-term goal of an effective road pricing system was through local or regional pilots. To support the development of such pilots, I said that we would make funding available, through the transport innovation fund, to local authorities offering innovative local packages combining demand management and better public transport.

I announced on 5 July that up to £200 million p.a. would be available from the fund for such schemes from 2008–09 to 2014–15—more if good schemes emerge.

Development of these schemes will be a complex undertaking. We therefore announced, also in July, that we would make available £18 million of pump-priming funding between 2005–06 and 2007–08 to support the work of local authorities in developing these local demand management schemes. I invited local authorities to submit bids for this development funding.
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The response to this offer was extremely positive. We received thirty-three bids, many with high quality ideas. The response to our invitation offers clear evidence that local authorities recognise that action planning to tackle congestion needs to start now.

I am today announcing pump-priming funding for seven areas to develop schemes:

The local authorities in all these areas will be carrying out feasibility studies on how local demand management and better public transport could together improve travelling conditions for their local people. Although no decisions have yet been taken by any of these authorities to adopt a road pricing solution to their congestion problems, all of them are planning to look at local road pricing as part of their consideration of demand management options. This work gives us the opportunity to develop practical design for road pricing schemes, within a coherent national pricing framework.

We will also be inviting officers from these authorities to work with us as members of the new Road Pricing Local Liaison Group together with others who have relevant experience of road pricing matters. This group will be responsible for taking forward thinking on those aspects of road pricing where it makes sense to have a consistent approach across all schemes, including technical standards, design and scheme appraisal. Local authorities' input will be essential to this work.

Receipt of this pump-priming funding is no guarantee that an authority will be successful in bidding for the main transport innovation fund. We will also work with other local authorities which have promising ideas for demand management, but which have not yet met the standard needed to secure development funding. We will be offering detailed feedback to all unsuccessful bidders, and currently plan to run a further round of pump priming funding in 2006. I shall keep the House informed.