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Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 17 July 2006

Treasury

Tax and Benefit Reference Manual 2006-07

The Paymaster General (Dawn Primarolo): Copies of the 2006-07 edition of the Tax Benefit Reference Manual (TBRM) are today being deposited in the House of Commons Library.

HM Treasury publishes the TBRM annually. It is a technical manual detailing the tax and benefit system, describing both the current and historic regimes. There are also tables of time series covering tax and benefit rates, numbers of tax payers and benefit claimants, VAT and duty rates and the tax burden on specimen households.

Communities and Local Government

Preventing Extremism Together

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Ruth Kelly): I would like to provide an update on the recommendations of the Preventing Extremism Together working groups.

The machinery of Government changes in May 2006 saw responsibility for working with Muslim communities to prevent extremism pass to the Department for Communities and Local Government.

I am clear that my new Department’s remit offers the opportunity to make real progress on tackling extremist ideologies. Our central policy on cohesion and faith will continue to be a key contributor to national debates and engagement, but we will be able to combine this with an extended reach into local authorities and communities to make a real difference at the local level. We will continue to work to tackle disadvantage experienced by Muslim communities, but will combine this with a greater focus on enabling them (and other communities) to challenge extremism directly.

Part of this work will be delivered by close engagement and partnership working with representatives of a broad range of Muslim individuals and organisations. I am keen to add new voices to a vigorous debate about how Government can support Muslim communities more effectively, while building on the successful consultations over the past year.

One of the key strands of that past consultation was “Preventing Extremism Together”, the working groups for which disbanded in November 2005, although we continue to work with a number of people involved in them. I would like to inform hon. Members of a
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progress update on that project, which will be available later today on the Department’s website at: http://www.communities.gov.uk/index.asp?id=1500185.

The update shows that we have made clear progress on the recommendations from Preventing Extremism Together that were for Government to take forward and that much of it has been made by supporting Muslim communities to deliver change for themselves. We will update the website on a regular basis as progress develops.

The update posted on the website therefore gives an indication of the work going on in response to all of the themes raised in the report—with projects focused on Muslim women and young people, and work aimed at tackling alienation and strengthening civic structures.

The recommendations made to us by the Preventing Extremism Together are an important part of our work with Muslim communities. But they are not the only part. By continuing to support interfaith activity, by funding grassroots projects through our £5 million faith communities capacity building fund, and by continuing our local outreach, we will be able to empower communities to tackle these challenges head on. I will keep the House informed of progress in this area.

Tenancy Deposit Protection Commencement Date

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Angela E. Smith): The commencement date for tenancy deposit protection will be 6 April 2007.

The summary of responses to the consultation on the tenancy deposit protection secondary legislation was published on 23 June 2006. The consultation sought views on the information requirements to be placed on landlords and the handling of deposits at the beginning and end of the tenancy.

Alongside the publication of the summary of responses, the Government announced that the commencement date of 1 October 2006 was under review.

Responses to the consultation raised concerns about joint authorisation for deposit repayment where either landlord or tenant cannot contact the other party to obtain agreement. This includes situations where there are rent arrears and a tenancy has been abandoned.

Further consideration has now been given to stakeholders’ concerns expressed in the consultative process and the Government recognise that it would be beneficial to both landlords and tenants to enable single claims to be made on the deposit in certain circumstances. We therefore intend to bring to the House proposals to achieve this.

To ensure all provisions are in place and stakeholders have had the opportunity to prepare for the introduction of tenancy deposit protection, the commencement date has been moved from 1 October 2006 to 6 April 2007, which is a common commencement date.


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Defence

Modernising Armed Forces and Veterans Personnel Administration

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Tom Watson): As foreshadowed by my predecessor in his statement in March 2005, I am announcing today the outcome of the study to explore whether there is scope for further service improvement through the greater integration of services delivered by the Armed Forces Personnel Administration Agency and the Veterans Agency. The study has included consultation of trade unions and veterans’ groups and has recommended that the Armed Forces Personnel Administration Agency and the Veterans Agency are integrated on 1 April 2007.

I have decided that the integration of these two agencies should take place as it will enable improvements to the service received by both veterans and serving members of our armed forces. It is my intention that each of these two groups should be able to access the whole range of services and benefits currently provided by the two agencies, simply by going to their own single dedicated contact point where their different needs will be understood and valued. Bringing together these agencies will enable the creation of an organisation with separate front office customer contact for veterans and serving personnel supported by a single back office and unified corporate services and strategy, with one person accountable for overall service delivery. This chief executive will be supported by directors with responsibility respectively for services to veterans and services to those currently serving. The new structure will enable more joined up and hence more accurate assessments of total entitlements that currently span two agencies. It will also facilitate the development of integrated business processes and IT, leading in due course to further improvements in services for serving and retired members of the armed forces and their beneficiaries, thus providing excellent and efficient service from ‘cradle to grave’.

Integrating these two agencies does not of itself imply an intention to collocate or further outsource services. These are separate issues to be considered on their merits as and when opportunities arise or existing contracts expire. Integration is designed to improve the administrative support we provide to the armed forces and veterans; and robust key targets will be set to ensure no erosion in the quality of service provided. Bringing together the agencies is consistent with the pan-Government initiative for more coherent, “joined up” approaches to service delivery. To retain a sharp focus on the quality of veterans services and to reassure elderly customers through a sense of continuity, the veterans agency name for the veterans contact point will be retained with a director dedicated to veterans services. As Minister for Veterans, I am committed to ensuring that the quality of service to veterans and their dependants as well as the serving population is continued and improved even further under the new arrangements.


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Education and Skills

LSC Annual Report and Accounts 2005-06

The Minister for Higher Education and Lifelong Learning (Bill Rammell): I would inform the House that the Learning and Skills Council for England has today published its annual report and accounts for the period to 31 March 2006. Copies will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Home Energy Conservation Act Data

The Minister for Climate Change and the Environment (Ian Pearson): Data reported by Energy Conservation Authorities in England under the Home Energy Conservation Act 1995 in the period 1 April 1996 to 31 March 2005 have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. These data have also been published on the Department for Food and Rural Affairs website at: http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/energy/heca 95/index.htm. Authorities have reported an overall improvement in domestic energy efficiency of 16.7 per cent. as measured against a 1996 baseline.

Health

Smoke-free Premises and Vehicles

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Caroline Flint): Today, the Department of Health publishes a consultation on proposed regulations for smoke-free premises and vehicles to be made under part 1 of the Health Bill. The medical and scientific evidence of the risks to health from exposure to second-hand smoke is well established and is set out in the 1998 and 2004 reports of the independent Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health, as well as in the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer Report of 2004.

A key aspect of the Government’s strategy as set out in the White Paper: “Choosing Health: Making Healthy Choices Easier”, is to shift the balance significantly in the favour of smoke-free enclosed public places and workplaces through legislation in order to reduce levels of exposure to second-hand smoke. The smoke-free provisions in the regulations to be made under the Health Bill are a huge step forward for public health by reducing exposure in enclosed public places and workplaces to the hazards of second-hand smoke.

The consultation seeks comments on the content of the regulations and their implementation. The consultation period will run for 12 weeks, closing on 2 October 2006.

Copies of the consultation document have been placed in the Library.


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Herceptin - Progress on HER2 Testing

The Secretary of State for Health (Ms Patricia Hewitt): On 12 June 2006, Official Report, columns 47-48WS I updated the House on Herceptin, following the announcement of its licence for early breast cancer and the publication of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence’s (NICE) draft recommendations on its use. In that written statement, I promised to update the House on progress with introducing HER2 testing arrangements across the country. This statement provides that update.

In October 2005 Professor Mike Richards, the national cancer director, wrote to all cancer networks to identify the current level of HER2 testing and to inform them that they would need to put arrangements in place to ensure that patients who may benefit from Herceptin for early breast cancer could be identified.

This exercise confirmed that access to HER2 testing facilities was patchy and few networks were testing all women with early breast cancer to determine their HER2 status. This was unsurprising given that Herceptin was not then licensed for early breast cancer.

In March 2006 the national cancer director sought a progress report from cancer networks. This has shown that there has been a significant improvement in the number of cancer networks providing HER2 testing for all women diagnosed with early breast cancer.


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Some 28 out of 34 cancer networks are now reporting that they HER2 test all women diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. Of the remaining six:

Home Department

National Offender Management Service

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe): Her Majesty's Prison Service and the National Probation Service have today published their annual reports, reporting their performance for 2005-06. The Office for Contracted Prisons has today published their “Statement of Performance”. Copies of all the annual reports have been placed in the House Library. The Prison Service report and the Office for Contracted Prisons Statement of Performance include the financial accounts for 2005-06. The financial accounts for the National Probation Service will be published later in the year.

Performance against all the National Offender Management targets for 2005-06 is shown in the table below.


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Performance Against the National Offender Management Targets for 2005/06
ANNUAL TARGETOUTTURN

PUBLIC PROTECTION TARGETS

Category A Escapes

0

0

Total Escapes from Prisons and Prison Escorts

Less than 0.05%

0.014%

Escapes from Contracted Escorts (NOMS)

1:20,000

1:59,082

Risk of harm assessments, full analyses and Offender Assessment Systems (OASys) sentence plans, including risk management plans, on high/very harm risk of harm offenders completed within 5 working days of commencement of order or release into the community

90%

81% (Aug 05-Mar 06)

Risk of harm screenings/full analyses (as appropriate) and OASys sentence plans completed on Prolific and other Priority Offenders (PPOs) within 5 working days of the commencement of the order or release into the community

90%

82% (Aug 05 Mar 06)

SUPPORTING THE COURTS

Pre-Sentence Reports to the Magistrates courts within the deadline specified by the court

90%

97% (July 05 Mar 06

Timely Arrival at Court (NOMS)

85%

82.31%

FIRM AND FAIR PUNISHMENT

Proportion of orders and licences in which the offender complies

85%

81%

Breach proceedings initiated within 10 days

90%

91%

Self-inflicted Deaths

Less than 112.8 per 100,000

96.8

Serious Assault

Less than 1.53%

1.84%

Overcrowding (public prisons)

Less than 24%

23.7%

Overcrowding (contracted prisons)

Less than 34.5%

31.3%

HELPING TO CUT CRIME

Education Awards (Probation Service) Basic Skills starts

40,000

44,972

(Probation Service) Basic Skills Awards achieved*

10,000

14,930

Education Awards (Prison) Basic skills awards achieved*

56,080

63,925

Education Awards (Prison) Work Skills awards achieved*

120,000

186,226

Accommodation on Release

64,765

77,388

Employment, Training and Education (ETE) place on release

38,000

42,879

Drug Treatment and Testing Orders/Drug Rehabilitation Requirements Completed (Probation)

4,000

3,977

Drug Treatment Programmes Completed (prisons)

5,850

8,011

Mandatory Drug Tests

Less than 11.8%

10.3%

Offending Behaviour Programmes completions (Probation Service)

15,000

17,127

Offending Behaviour Programmes (Prisons)

7,000

7,942

Of which Sex Offender Treatment programmes

1,240

1,152

Intensive Control and Change Programmes completed

350

270

CONTRIBUTING TO COMMUNITIES AND SOCIETY

Enhanced Community Punishment/Unpaid Work completions

50,000

51,026

Victim Contact

85%

93%

ORGANISING AND SUPPORTING DELIVERY

Staff Sickness (public prisons only)

Less than 11..5 days/person

12.17

Staff Sickness (Probation Service)

Less than 9 days/person

12.3

Ethnic Minority Staff (public prisons only)

At least 6%

5.73%

Regionally set employment targets for Ethnic Minority Staff

8.4%

11.9%

Clear proposals in court reports for minority ethnic offenders

95%

97%

* Learning and Skills Council has contributed to this target by delivering in three development regions.

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