The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (John Healey): I am today laying legislation confirming the introduction of quantitative restrictions on travellers bringing cigarettes from the newest EU member states, who are taking advantage of a derogation allowing them to delay meeting minimum duty levels on cigarettes.
The restrictions will apply from 1 January 2007 to cigarettes bought duty-paid in Bulgaria and Romania. From that date travellers to the UK bringing in cigarettes from Bulgaria and Romania will be restricted, as they are currently, to a limit of 200 cigarettes.
The Excise Duty Points (Etc.)(New Member States) (Amendment) Regulations 2006 and the Customs and Excise Duties (Travellers Allowances and Personal Reliefs) (New Member States) (Amendment) Order 2006 allow the UK to maintain these restrictions on travellers who are bringing back cigarettes from Bulgaria or Romania. The Relief for Legacies Imported from Third Countries (Application) Order 2006 makes consequential amendments to the Customs and Excise Duties (Personal Reliefs for Goods Permanently Imported) Order 1992 (S.1.1992/ 3193) so that its territorial application includes Bulgaria and Romania.
Therefore where new member states take advantage of a derogation, existing member states are entitled to maintain the same restrictions on the import of cigarettes bought in those countries for a travellers own use, as are currently applied to travellers arriving from third countries.
Imposing restrictions in respect of Bulgaria and Romania will maintain consistency of approach taken by the UK with other countries that have yet to reach the EU minimum rates of duty, extending to Bulgaria and Romania the current restrictions imposed on eight countries that joined in 2004.
The Minister for Housing and Planning (Yvette Cooper): Today we are publishing a new Planning Policy Statement 3: Housing, a housing policy document on delivering affordable housing, as well as documents by English Partnerships as part of a consultation on a new national brownfield strategy.
• support further increased housing needed across the country,
• bring additional brownfield land back into use,
• increase the design and environmental standards of new homes and neighbourhoods in order to move towards zero carbon development,
• deliver more affordable homes in rural and urban areas,
• support more family housing, including more play spaces, parks and gardens for children,
• give local authorities more flexibility about how and where to deliver the homes that are needed.
Government research found that if we do not build more homes, then the proportion of 30-year old couples able to afford their own home will fall from over 50 per cent. today to nearer 30 per cent. in 20 years time.
Some 45 towns and cities have come forward to propose significant increases in new homes and jobsin addition to the existing growth areas such as the Thames Gateway. These planning changes aim to support those areas to deliver the additional homes we need, while raising standards at the same time.
In December 2005, as part of the Governments response to Kate Barkers review of housing supply, we issued a consultation draft of a new Planning Policy Statement 3: Housing (PPS3). We are today publishing final PPS3. A copy of the new PPS will be placed in the Library of both Houses, together with the accompanying summary of the consultation responses.
PPS3 will underpin the delivery of the Governments key housing policy objectivesto deliver more homes, but of higher quality and higher environmental standards to meet the challenge from climate change.
• Local and regional planning bodies will need to take more account of affordability when determining how many new homes are needed in their area.
• Local authorities will need to identify more appropriate sites for housing. Councils need to plan 15 years ahead, to ensure they have a rolling five-year supply of sustainable and deliverable sites, in order to prevent much needed new homes being held up by unnecessary delays in the planning process.
• Stronger emphasis on improving the quality of design of housing and neighbourhoods. PPS3 makes it clear that local authorities should turn down poor quality applications.
• Stronger environmental standards. Developers and planning bodies will have to take account of the need to cut carbon emissions as well as wider environmental and sustainability considerations when siting and designing new homes. The forthcoming planning policy statement on climate change and the new code for sustainable homes will set out further details including plans to move towards zero carbon development.
• New emphasis on family homes. For the first time the planning system will be required to consider the housing needs of children, including gardens, play areas and green spaces. Local authorities will have more ability to promote mixed communities and to ensure larger homes are being developed alongside flats and smaller homes.
• A continuing focus on brownfield land, retaining the national target that at least 60 per cent. of new homes should be built on brownfield land. Local authorities will need to continue to prioritise brownfield land in their plans and will need to set their own local targets to reflect available sites
and support the national target. They will also need to take stronger action to bring more brownfield land back into use, supported by the new national brownfield strategy led by English Partnerships. In response to the consultation we have also introduced new safeguards so that local authorities can ensure their brownfield approach is delivered, to support regeneration and to prevent developers concentrating only on greenfield sites.
• More flexibility for local authorities to determine how and where new homes should be built in their area, alongside greater responsibility to ensure the homes are built. Local authorities will be able to set their own local standards for density (with a national indicative minimum of 30 dwellings per hectare) and for car parking. They will also be able to set separate targets for different kinds of brownfield land where appropriate, to give them more flexibility to shape new developments to meet the needs of their local area.
• Stronger policies on affordable housing. The new definition of affordable housing will concentrate public funding and planning contributions on genuinely affordable housing. In addition local authorities will be able to require developer contributions to affordable housing on smaller sites where it is viable.
• Stronger emphasis on rural affordable housing. Following the recommendations of the Affordable Rural Housing Commission, local authorities and regional planning bodies will have to take greater account of affordability pressures in rural areas, and the need to sustain village life by providing additional housing that is sensitive to the area and the environment.
We are also publishing today a statement on delivering affordable housing, intended to support local authorities and other key players in delivering more high quality affordable housing within mixed sustainable communities by using all tools available to them. It provides information on how existing delivery mechanisms operate. This statement should be read in conjunction with Planning Policy Statement 3: (PPS3) Housing, but is not itself planning guidance. It is available on the Communities and Local Government website at: www.communities.gov.uk
The national brownfield strategy team within English Partnerships, in its role as specialist adviser to Government on brownfield land issues, has been working with us and a wide range of stakeholders for the past three years to develop a national brownfield strategy for England, to help understand and overcome the problems which are preventing brownfield sites from being brought back into use. The strategy considers brownfield use in the widest sense including all types of development as well as various green end uses, such as parks.
The strategy consists of two documentsThe first a substantial best practice guide The Brownfield GuideA Practitioners Guide to Land Re-use in England, the second a short policy discussion paper that sets out the policy issues raised by stakeholders and through English Partnerships own work in developing the guide. The policy discussion paper suggests a set of overriding principles for brownfield development and sets out a number of outline policy proposals for further discussion at a stakeholder event in mid December. The discussion paper will be available on the EP website at: www.englishpartnerships.co.uk
The command of garrisons across the UK is inconsistent, with a variety of commanders from different chains of command holding garrison command responsibility. Responsibility for administration, both within the Army and with external organisations, can at times be unclear. To address these anomalies:
(I) From April 2007 garrisons should be commanded by the local regional forces brigade commander
(II) If there is no deployable brigade commander in the garrison, then command will fall to the senior officer with most troops in that garrison.
Changes to the regional brigade and divisional structure are proposed in order to bring project Allenby-Connaught under a single General Officer Commanding and improve alignment to regional prime contractors. These changes will also enable the army to develop the super garrison concept and ensure an even distribution of the potential future super garrison sites. The changes will entail:
(1) 43 (Wessex) Brigade moving under command 4 Division, so 4 Division comprises all the southern brigades (43 (Wessex) Brigade,145 (Home Counties) Brigade and 2 (Infantry) Brigade) on 1 April2007.
(2) 49 (East) Brigade moving under command 5 Division, so 5 Division comprises the central formations (160 (Wales) Brigade, 143 (West Midlands) Brigade and 49 (East) Brigade) on 1 April 2007.
(3) 38 (Irish) Brigade (which will form from 39 Inf Bde and 107 (Ulster) Brigade) moving under command 2 Division and, simultaneously, 42 (North West) Brigade moving to come under command 5 Division. No date is yet set for these changes, as it will be dependent upon the rate of the Northern Ireland Normalisation process.
(4) The Single Point of Accountability for the Colchester PFI transferred to the General Officer Commanding 5 Division (Major General Farquhar) when the GOC 4 Division retired in May 2006. General Officer Commanding 4 Division will assume responsibility for Allenby-Connaught from Commander Regional Forces during 2007.
With effect from April 2007, the Army Recruiting and Training Division (previously ATRA) will come under Command of Commander Regional Forces. This measure is being trialled this year, but as part of this transfer, from 1 April 2006, Commander Regional Forces has assumed responsibility for the planning of national level recruiting, in tandem with this, Regional Brigade commanders will be responsible for recruiting Regular and TA soldiers. This will allows a more coordinated approach in this key area.
The Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality (Mr. Liam Byrne): The House will wish to know that I am publishing today a consultation document on the establishment of a migration advisory committee. Copies of this consultation document have been placed in the House Library.
The Government are committed to attracting people with the skills Britain needs from around the world. That is why we have announced a new points-based system for managed migration, which we will introduce from next year. In implementing this system, I believe that we could benefit greatly from independent advice. I propose that a migration advisory committee, comprising independent experts and key stakeholders, should provide that advice.
I set out the proposed remit of the migration advisory committee in the consultation document. The key decisions on which it would advise relate to whether there are particular labour shortages in the economy which could best be filled by migration, and what the points criteria should be for highly skilled and skilled workers in the new points-based system. We would ask the migration advisory committee to assess, in formulating its advice, the net benefit to the UK as a whole of particular categories of migrants, taking into account economic, fiscal and wider impacts of migration.
The Minister for Science and Innovation (Malcolm Wicks): Lord Truscott represented the UK at the Energy Council in Brussels on 23 November. Discussion focused on the Commission's recent Energy Efficiency action plan and on renewable energy.
Informal discussion over dinner on the eve of the Council reinforced the unanimous view that energy mix was a matter of subsidiarity. Views on an appropriate overall CO2 reduction target were mixed, with two member states particularly cautious. Lord Truscott underlined the UK's emphasis on the broader climate challenge that ambitious action on energy efficiency could help meet.
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