29 Nov 2006 : Column 105WS

29 Nov 2006 : Column 105WS

Written Ministerial Statements

Wednesday 29 November 2006


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.

While the minimum duty rates are not met, concerns and uncertainties over the impact of EU enlargement on excise smuggling and cross-border shopping are heightened.

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.

These restrictions will provide certainty for both travellers and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officers, and will also reduce the frontline cost of countering smuggling.

Once the legislation is passed HMRC has plans in place to explain the restrictions to the travel industry and general public.

Communities and Local Government


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.

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The purpose of the changes to planning and housing policy is to:

We need to increase the quantity and improve the quality of new homes at the same time.

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 jobs—in 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.

Planning Policy Statement (PPS) 3: Housing

In December 2005, as part of the Government’s response to Kate Barker’s 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 Government’s key housing policy objectives—to deliver more homes, but of higher quality and higher environmental standards to meet the challenge from climate change.

The key policies are:

Affordable Housing

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

National Brownfield Strategy

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 documents—The first a substantial best practice guide “The Brownfield Guide—A 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

Following the input of stakeholders at this event, English Partnerships will then submit detailed policy recommendations to Government early in the new year.

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Army Regional Command Structure

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): I am today announcing a number of changes to the Army's regional command structure.

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:

RF Brigade and Division Structure.

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:

The maps showing these changes will be placed in the Library of the House

Army Recruiting and Training Division (ARTD) and Recruiting Group (RG).

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.

All of these changes are purely administrative in nature and they will not involve any physical movement of troops.

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Home Department

Migration Advisory Comittee

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 consultation period ends on 31 January. We will then report on the results of the consultation and our proposed course of action.

Trade and Industry

Energy Council

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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