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Written Ministerial Statements

Wednesday 29 March 2006


Finance Bill

The Paymaster General (Dawn Primarolo): It is expected that the Finance Bill will be published on Friday 7 April. Explanatory Notes on the Bill's clauses will be available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office and in the Libraries of both Houses on that day. Members of the public will be able to obtain copies of the explanatory notes from the Treasury. These will also be available on the Treasury's website at: http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk


Transformational Government (Implementation Plan)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Cabinet Office (Mr. Jim Murphy): Following the publication in November 2005 of "Transformational Government—enabled by technology" (Cm 6683) I am today giving notice of the publication of an implementation plan for that strategy.

Transformational Government set out a vision for 21st century Government, enabled by technology. The implementation plan sets out how the centre of government and public service delivery organisations acting collectively can create a whole greater than the sum of parts. The plan tackles obstacles to success, focuses on the customer, joins up work across Government, tackles duplication and empowers the technology workforce. It is part of a long term programme of change as set out in the transformational Government strategy, also referred to in the Budget.

Copies are available in the Libraries of the House and on the Chief Information Officers Council website at: www.cio.gov.uk


Local Authority Fees and Charges Scheme

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): Charges to cover the costs of local enforcing authorities in regulating processes which are subject to Part I of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (Local Air Pollution Control (LAPC)) were introduced in April 1991. Interim charges for installations which are subject to the Pollution Prevention and Control Act 1999 (Local Air Pollution Prevention and Control (LAPPC) and Local Authority—Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (LA-IPPC)) were introduced in August 2000.
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With the approval of the Treasury to the extent required, and following consultation with local authority associations and industry, I have made revised schemes in respect of the Environmental Protection Act and in respect of the Pollution Prevention and Control Act. The schemes specify the scale of fees and charges to take effect from 1 April 2006.

There will be a 2.5 per cent. increase to all LAPC, LAPPC and LA-IPPC fees and charges for 2006–07. For the first time a risk based charging system will be introduced this year in line with the existing risk based methodology which was first published in 2003 for LAPC and LAPPC and in 2005 for LA-IPPC. The basis of these increases and the risk based scheme is set out in the regulatory impact assessment which is available on the Defra website at the following website address:


Some minor amendments to the schemes have also been made in the light of consultation with local authorities and industry.

Copies of the schemes have been placed in the Libraries of the House.


Westminster Foundation for Democracy

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw): On 4 April 2005, the then Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with responsibility for human rights, my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Bill Rammell), announced to the House the beginning of a consultation exercise on the future of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD). The consultation exercise followed a review of the WFD by River Path Associates, commissioned jointly by the FCO and WFD, and conducted in accordance with Government guidelines on reviewing non-Departmental public bodies.

Many hon. Members from all sides of the House, through their own commitment to work with and on behalf of the WFD, were already aware of the contribution that the foundation has made since 1992 to promoting democracy and human rights—essential themes in promoting the UK's national interest in a safe, just and prosperous world. I am pleased to report that the overwhelming majority of responses received during the consultation, both from hon. Members of this House and specialists in democracy promotion in the UK and from overseas, confirmed our view that the WFD continues to fulfil a uniquely valuable role in promoting democracy through party-to-party links and through its non-political work in supporting institutional and parliamentary capacity building. The arms-length approach brings value-added benefit that could not be achieved by Government.

In light of these responses and our own analysis, I am pleased to announce that the Government have concluded that it should continue to support the WFD through a grant in aid by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and to retain its current structures unchanged.
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At the same time, in light of some of the review's observations, the Government and WFD agreed last year to make some changes to the foundation's operating methods to enhance accountability and transparency. This has resulted in the introduction of stronger mechanisms for appraising, monitoring and evaluating projects, reflected in new, annual contractual arrangements between the foundation and the UK political parties.

The conclusion of agreement on these new measures brings to an end the process initiated by the review. Throughout this period, we have appreciated the constructive and co-operative approach of all the members of the board and staff of the WFD, under the chairmanship first of my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes) and now of my hon. Friend the Member for the City of York (Hugh Bayley). The Government welcome the conclusion of the review and look forward to continuing to work in partnership with the WFD in our joint endeavour to promote democracy around the world.


Contingencies Fund

The Secretary of State for Health (Ms Patricia Hewitt): The approval of the Department's Spring Supplementary Estimate via the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) (No 2) Bill will not occur until the end of the month. Parliamentary approval for additional resources of £1,785,769,000 for services has been sought in the Supplementary Estimate for the Department of Health. Pending that approval, urgent expenditure estimated at £1,700,000,000 will be met by repayable cash advances from the Contingencies Fund.

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Caroline Flint): Today I am publishing a report on the review of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act public consultation. The consultation ran from 16 August to 25 November 2005. A total of 535 responses were received from a wide range of stakeholders and individuals. The report was produced for the Department of Health by People, Science and Policy Ltd. and comprises an independent summary of the arguments raised. Copies of the report, and the consultation responses have been placed in the Library.

In addition, over the same time period as the public consultation, the Department of Health funded the Progress Educational Trust to host an online discussion forum with the aim of facilitating open public discussion on issues raised in the context of the review. A summary of the postings made has been produced and copies have been placed in the Library.

Strategic Health Authorities, Ambulance Trusts and Primary Care Trusts (Reconfiguration)

The Secretary of State for Health (Ms Patricia Hewitt): In my written ministerial statements dated 1 December 2005 and 14 December 2005, I explained that I had agreed that proposals for the reconfiguration of strategic health authorities (SHAs), the reconfiguration of primary care trusts (PCTs) and the reconfiguration of NHS ambulance
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trusts were fit to go forward for consultation in the cause of improving services to patients. The objective has been to ensure that the consultation on PCTs covers the broadest and most appropriate range of options. This statement provides an update on progress.

The proposals for the reconfiguration of SHAs and PCTs have been subject to a 14-week local consultation, which ended on 22 March 2006. Similarly, the proposals for the reconfiguration of NHS ambulance trusts have been subject to a 14-week consultation, which ended on 22 March, led by SHAs on my behalf.

No decisions will be taken regarding the reconfiguration of SHAs, PCTs and NHS ambulance trusts before the results of the consultations have been considered and any recommendations reviewed. SHAs will submit reports on the consultations on SHA and NHS ambulance trust reconfiguration proposals to the Department of Health by 5 April 2006 and on PCT reconfiguration proposals to the Department by 10 April.

In previous statements, I explained that an external panel had been established to advise Ministers on whether SHAs had adequately engaged local stakeholders as part of the consultations on SHA and PCT reconfiguration proposals and whether any recommendations for reconfiguration submitted by SHAs meet the criteria set out in Commissioning a Patient-Led NHS, published on 28 July 2005.

I will announce decisions as soon as possible, which may be on different timetables for the different forms and levels of organisations. Our aim is for new SHAs and new NHS ambulance trusts to be established from 1 July 2006 and for new PCTs to be established from 1 October 2006.

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