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The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair): I am pleased to announce that I have approved the appointment of the right hon. Sir Peter Gibson as Intelligence Services Commissioner under the terms of section 59 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.
The appointment will commence on 1 April 2006 and will run for three years.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair): I am pleased to announce that I have approved the appointment of the right hon. Sir Paul Kennedy as Interception of Communications Commissioner under the terms of section 57 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.
The appointment will commence on 11 April 2006 and will run for three years.
The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Alan Johnson): The Government asked the Low Pay Commission last summer to produce their next report on the national minimum wage by the end of February 2006. The Government are today publishing the Commission's 2006 report and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the nine Commissioners for their work on the report and in particular to thank the Chair, Lord Turner of Ecchinswell for his stewardship of the Commission over the last four years.
The main recommendations put forward by the Commission concern the rates of the minimum wage. The Commission have confirmed their earlier recommendations, made in their 2005 report, that the adult rate of the minimum wage should be increased from £5.05 to £5.35 in October 2006, and that the development rate, which covers workers aged 18 to 21,
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should be increased on the same date from £4.25 to £4.45. The Commission have also recommended that the Government should increase the 1617 year old rate from £3 to £3.30, again from October 2006.
The Government have accepted these recommendations. The Commission has also made a number of other recommendations. The Government:
accepts the recommendation that salary sacrifice schemes, including those for childcare vouchers, should not count towards the minimum wage;
accepts the recommendation that the Government should update guidance on the accommodation offset. However we will need to consider carefully their recommendation on the need for possible tightening of the legislation;
will consider the recommendation that the Commission be invited to review the apprenticeship exemptions in 2008 when preparing their 2007 remit;
will take into account their recommendation that enforcement should be stepped-up in sectors that employ migrant workers when considering sectors for targeted enforcement action in the future.
Copies of this statement, the report from the Low Pay Commission, the Government's individual response to the Commission's recommendations and our draft regulatory impact assessment have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mrs. Anne McGuire): I am pleased to announce these changes to the permitted work rules. Research has shown that almost a quarter of people trying permitted work have found jobs. We aim to make improvements to the current arrangements to enhance the attractiveness of this provision, with a better structure of information, support and guidance to assist more people on incapacity benefits to progress to full time work. The accompanying changes to the rules will allow all participants an initial 52 week period of permitted work earning up to £81 a week. In addition people with advanced, progressive conditions which severely limit their capacity for work will be able to earn up to £81 beyond the 52 week limit.
The notice requirements for permitted work are removed by these changes to provide a simplification of the rules and people preparing for self-employment through the test trading scheme will no longer be subject to the permitted work earnings limits but will instead be treated as undertaking training.
In addition the Government are also making changes to improve the operation of the linking rules which protect the rate of benefit for people who return to incapacity benefits having become incapable of work after attempting work or training. These changes ensure that people who notify a return to work in advance or are entitled to the same protection as those who provide notification after the event and that people who receive statutory sick pay before incapacity benefit are eligible for protection after six months of incapacity in the same way as incapacity benefit recipients now.