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Coal Authority (Annual Report and Accounts 2005-06)

The Minister for Energy (Malcolm Wicks): I have today laid a copy of the Coal Authority report and accounts for 2005-06 before Parliament.

Regional Development Agencies (Annual Report and Accounts 2005-06)

The Minister for Industry and the Regions (Margaret Hodge): I have today laid before Parliament the annual reports and accounts for 2005-06 for the eight Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) outside London. Copies have been placed in the House Library.

The annual report and accounts for London are presented to the Mayor of London rather than to Parliament. I shall provide a copy to the House of Commons Library when it is available.

The Government welcome the contribution that the RDAs have made during this year to driving forward economic development in their respective regions.

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Also published today are the RDAs’ reported outputs for 2005-06. These results are evidence that the RDAs continue to play a valuable role in improving the economic performance of the English regions and, through working with their partners, the RDAs are making a real difference to the individual regional economies concerned. The figures cover the creation and safeguarding of jobs, the number of people helped to get a job, the amount of brownfield land brought back into use, the number of businesses added to the regional economies, the number of businesses helped to improve their performance, the number of learning opportunities created and the amount of private sector investment attracted benefiting deprived areas, all as a result of RDA activity.

Press releases on the outputs have been issued in each region. Copies of the output results have been placed in the House Library, and are also available on the DTI website at:


Journey Times (Urban Areas)

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Douglas Alexander): In my written ministerial statement of Tuesday 18 July 2006, Official Report 18-19WS the Department published new targets for journey times in urban areas. The target included for Merseyside unfortunately used an interim version of Merseyside’s target, rather than the final target they adopted. Incorporating the final target has a small beneficial effect on the national journey time target, lowering it by just 0.03 per cent.

The revised success criteria are therefore as follows: the target will be deemed to have been met if, on target routes in the 10 largest urban areas in England, an average increase in travel of 4.4 per cent. is accommodated within an increase of 3.6 per cent. in person journey time per mile.

An updated public service agreement and technical note has been placed on the Departmental website today. Copies have been placed in the Library of the House.

Release of Data from the UK Vehicle Registers

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Dr. Stephen Ladyman): I am today announcing 14 major new measures to ensure that the release of data from the UK vehicle registers is undertaken in a way that:

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This follows the review that I announced in December last year and the public consultation launched in February this year.

I will give a full update on progress in delivering these new measures in the autumn.

I will continue to scrutinise closely the way in which the scheme operates and how it is used. Should further action be merited, I will ensure that it is taken quickly.

The new measures are as follows:

New Requirements for evidence of ‘reasonable cause’

(1) New detailed guidance on what is likely to constitute ‘reasonable cause’.

(2) Clarity that behaviour in using data will be considered in judging whether a particular applicant’s assertions as to the ‘reasonable cause’ for his application are to be believed; and in deciding upon whether approved conditional access is granted or maintained.

(3) For all applications where ‘reasonable cause’ relates to a vehicle left on land without permission or in breach of terms and conditions, evidence is required that the applicant is the landowner or has the permission of the landowner to pursue the vehicle keeper.

(4) For all applications where ‘reasonable cause’ relates to the pursuit of a penalty charge, evidence is required that a penalty scheme was indeed in place on that piece of land (that is, that there was signage).

New requirements for ‘approved conditional access’

(5) Those bodies and companies seeking approved conditional access that do not have an appropriate regulatory body are required to be current members of an ‘accredited’ trade association. Part of the process for ‘accrediting’ trade associations will include ensuring that there is a clear and enforced code of conduct (for example relating to conduct, parking charge signage, charge levels, appeals procedure, approval of ticket wording; and appropriate pursuit of penalties—that is, approach by letter only and county court action only to permit a house call).

(6) Organisations that do not comply with the terms of the accredited trade association will be expelled and without valid membership of another accredited trade association will lose their approved conditional access. Trade associations that do not police the conditions of membership adequately will lose their accreditation.

(7) All those seeking approved conditional access will be required to serve a ‘probationary’ period of six months or, if longer, for the period of time it takes to make 20 requests— during which all requests should be made on a case by case basis.

New Measures to ensure awareness of the vehicle keeper

(8) That all those who receive data, as evidence of their ‘reasonable behaviour’ and as a condition of ‘approved conditional access’, include in any correspondence with the keeper a leaflet or statement advising them of:

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And that this information is also placed on the DVLA website.

(9) That DVLA maintain on its web site a list of organisations and companies who have requested data and the reasons for their request.

(10) That a reference to the location on the DVLA website of guidance and advice and all other information relating to the release of vehicle keeper data are included on all DVLA documentation sent to the vehicle keeper—including the annual VED reminder.

New Auditing Procedures and action to combat misuse or complaints

(11) A rolling 3-year programme of audit check including targeted checks on those where concerns have been raised:

(12) A clear set of procedures where such concerns are raised:

New Complaints Procedures

(13) A clear procedure by which data subjects can notify DVLA if they feel that their data have been used inappropriately and take steps to draw this to the attention of vehicle keepers by including information in paperwork sent to them and on the DVLA website. This will include information of how they can notify the Information Commissioner of the misuse of their data.

(14) Complaints received will form part of the evaluation of whether an applicant’s assertion of ‘reasonable cause’ is valid.

Work and Pensions

Agency Reports and Accounts (2005-06)

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr. John Hutton): I am pleased to announce that the Department for Work and Pensions has today laid the 2005-06 annual reports and accounts for three of its executive agencies: Child Support Agency (HC1402), the Disability and Carers Service (HC1336) and the Appeals Service (HC1542). Copies are available in the Printed Paper Office and the Vote Office.

Publication of the Jobcentre Plus annual report and accounts has been delayed until after the summer recess.

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Financial Assistance Scheme

The Minister for Pensions Reform (James Purnell): On 6 June I wrote to Members to advise them that I had commissioned a review of the administration of the financial assistance scheme and would report the outcome before the summer recess. In particular I was concerned about ensuring that all eligible people receive payments as quickly as possible; that we ensure the most cost efficient operation; and that we examine a full range of options for the appropriate organisational location of the operations.

Today I have placed copies of the findings of the review in the Library. These show that obtaining data from trustees is the key to making payments and highlight the need to significantly strengthen the skills within the financial assistance scheme operations needed to obtain this data, concluding that this can best be achieved through an injection of skills from the private sector or the pension protection fund. These skills can best be managed from within DWP.

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The review has also identified the scope for some operational efficiencies and more detailed work will be undertaken to establish optimum staffing levels. In addition, it has concluded that the long term governance of the Operational Unit is best placed in the Pension Service. Overall we expect these changes to increase the speed at which people receive help from the scheme.

I have now commissioned work to implement the findings and will update on implementation in the autumn.

I am also pleased to announce that today we have published the draft Financial Assistance Scheme (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2006. These regulations will bring into effect the extension to the financial assistance scheme announced in the White Paper on pension reform on 25 May. We will be consulting on the draft regulations over the next eight weeks and will publish a response to the consultation along with the final version of the draft regulations. Copies of the draft regulations and consultation document have been placed in the Library and can also be found on the FAS website at

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