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Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 10 July 2006


Public Expenditure

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Stephen Timms): The Treasury will publish the 2005-06 Public Expenditure Provisional Outturn White Paper on Thursday 20 July.

The White Paper is an annual report to Parliament on the provisional outturn for public expenditure. It focuses on spending within Departmental Expenditure Limits (DEL) and Annually Managed Expenditure (AME), including information on individual supply estimates and administration costs limits.

The outturn figures are described as provisional because they may be revised when the Department's final accounts are published.

A copy of the White Paper will be available in the Libraries of the House and will be accessible on the Treasury website.

Home Department

Race and Criminal Justice Statistics

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe): Further to the written statement of my hon. Friend the Member for Slough (Fiona McTaggart), then the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, on 30 March 2006, Official Report, column 89WS, announcing the publication of the 2005 race and criminal justice statistics, the statistics were temporarily withdrawn from the public domain following the emergence of inaccuracies relating to the racist incidents data. The Home Office has been working closely with Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) to verify the statistics and checking is now complete. The statistics have been published today with some amendments in relation to the racist incidents and stop and search data. We regret any confusion resulting from the need to withdraw temporarily the statistics from the public domain.

The Government are committed to ensuring our statistics provide an accurate picture of black and minority ethnic groups' experiences of the criminal justice system and has been working to prevent future problems and improve the consistency and robustness of the data we collect. We will shortly be publishing a major review of the race
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and criminal justice statistics and our response, which will set out our programme of work to improve data we collect on black and minority ethnic groups' experiences of the criminal justice system.

Trade and Industry

UK Assisted Areas

The Minister for Industry and the Regions (Margaret Hodge): I am today launching a consultation on the draft map of areas in the UK within which it will be possible to pay state aid (economic funding to help to boost competitiveness) during the period 2007-2013. The new map will replace the current one which expires on 31 December 2006 and will cover the period 1 January 2007 to 31 December 2013. The consultation forms stage two of the Assisted Areas Review, and will be open from today until 7 August 2006. It builds on an earlier nine-week consultation launched by my predecessor on 15 February 2006. Copies of the consultation document have been placed in the House Library.

Assisted area coverage does not bring with it specific funding. Instead it offers eligibility for certain forms of financial support. It permits the UK to provide large-scale investment to firms in these areas. Under EU guidelines published in December, the UK's overall regional aid population coverage will be 23.9 per cent. down from 30.9 per cent. coverage on the current map.

The new Regional Aid Guidelines were published by the European Commission last December. These guidelines define the parameters for assisted areas for 2007 to 2013. They require less and better targeted state aid, in line with conclusions of successive European Councils and agreed by all member states. The UK's coverage is reduced partly because of our strong economic performance over the last period and partly because the enlarged European Union means a redistribution of aid to the newer and poorer EU member states. All other western member states will also see their coverage fall, many of them more sharply than in the UK. For example, coverage in France is reducing from 36.7 per cent. to 18.4 per cent. in Spain from 79.2 per cent. to 59.6 per cent. and in Ireland from 100 per cent. to 50 per cent.

There are other limitations imposed by the Regional Aid Guidelines, notably a ‘filter’. The Commission has identified a series of prosperous and low unemployment areas, which they prescribe are ineligible for coverage except through very restrictive provisions. In general the UK has supported this approach, as it is consistent with the objective of better targeting our reduced coverage. In March, following stakeholder requests during stage one of the Assisted Areas Review, my Department made available on its website the list of those places which fall outside of the EU filter.

Working within these limitations, the new map represents a thorough, evidence-based approach to allocating the UK's scarce population coverage on the
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basis of both need and opportunity. Coverage has been allocated using employment inactivity and skills indicators and as such it reflects the direction of the Government's agreed regional policy.

The map reflects not only areas of need, but areas of opportunity. A strong principle underpinning both the current and the proposed map is that it is essential to use our coverage to focus on areas that are able to use the flexibility provided. There are many deprived parts of the UK that do not have the scale of industrial sites necessary to fully exploit assisted area status. This approach received clear support in the public consultation. As a result we have also used an indicator of opportunity—manufacturing share of employment—to help identify eligibility for assisted area status.

The Regional Aid Guidelines specify that coverage must consist of zones with minimum 100,000 population. In order to make full use of our limited coverage we have formed such zones by combining wards into larger units. By doing so, we have maximised the effectiveness of our coverage. This approach is consistent with the views of many consultation respondents.

The reduction in UK coverage makes it even more important that the scarce allocation is given to those areas where it can make the most difference. That means that the Government have decided not to cover the whole of Merseyside and South Yorkshire automatically, but to focus on those parts of the region that would most benefit from coverage. As a result, some parts of Merseyside and South Yorkshire will lose their coverage. However, overall Merseyside and South Yorkshire retain 81 per cent. and 76 per cent. of their coverage respectively.

It is important to stress that those areas which lose assisted area status will not be losing funding, but only losing access to some forms of financial support. There are many other EU ‘horizontal aid’ instruments which are available in all areas, regardless of assisted area status. These can be used, for example, to facilitate competitiveness through research and development spending, to improve access to venture capital for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), to support environmental projects, to help provide access to training, and to encourage cultural development. Regional investment in SMEs is also available. Additionally, all areas of the UK will be eligible to apply for structural funds, through the European Regional Development Fund or the European Social Fund. There are also domestic regeneration and investment programmes that support industrial growth and jobs.

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Work and Pensions

Disability Equality

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mrs. Anne McGuire): In 2005 the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit published its report “Improving the Life Chances of Disabled People”. One of its key recommendations was that the Government should set up a new mechanism to involve disabled people in the heart of policy-making.

In order to explore this recommendation my officials have been working with an advisory group of 13 disabled people to develop recommendations for this body. The advisory group will produce its final report later this year. In the meantime, they have identified that there is a need for a new body to:

After considering the recommendations of the advisory group, I have decided to create an advisory non-departmental public body to be known as “Equality 2025: the United Kingdom Advisory Network on Disability Equality” to fulfil this role. It will not replace existing departmental arrangements for involving disabled people in policy-making, but supplement them.

Equality 2025 will have 20 to 25 members, who will all be disabled people. Members of Equality 2025 will be recruited in accordance with the standards set by the Office for the Commissioner of Public Appointments, and advertisements will appear in both general interest media and the disability press from later this week.

I expect Equality 2025 to be launched later this year.

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