The Secretary of State for Defence (Des Browne): Today in Washington DC, the Minister for Defence Procurement has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the US Government on the next phase of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) programme, Production, Sustainment and Follow-on Development (PSFD).
This is an important step forward for both the armed forces and British industry. The MoU sets out the framework for purchasing JSF and supporting and upgrading it through life. It also provides for the pooling of the nine partner nations' collective buying power in a common support solution, and of their resources and technology in follow-on development. It does not, however, formally commit the UK to buying any aircraft. Our associated increase in financial commitment at this stage is £34 million.
We have always been clear that the UK would only sign the MoU if we were satisfied that we would have operational sovereignty of our aircraft. We have today received the necessary assurances from the US on technology transfer, which we would require to operate the aircraft safely and maintain, repair and upgrade it over its operational life.
JSF's next-generation capabilities will contribute to air superiority for decades to come. As part of the Carrier Strike capability, it will be a key component of the expeditionary capability needed to confront the diverse range of 21st century threats. Signature of the MoU today reflects our continuing commitments to providing the armed forces with battle-winning equipment; to procuring and supporting that equipment in the most cost-effective way; and to enhancing the armed forces' ability to interoperate effectively with our international partners.
The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Miliband):
In my statement of 1 November 2006, Official Report, column 19WS, I said that I would keep the House informed about developments on contingency arrangements for rural development funding delivery. These are necessary because of delays, for reasons utterly beyond our
control, to the start of the next Rural Development Programme in England, originally due for 1 January 2007.
As explained in my earlier statement our programme, which will deliver important environmental, economic and social benefits in rural England, is dependent upon a new European Voluntary Modulation regulation which is still subject to a consultation procedure with the European Parliament.
Our aim is to minimise any disruption caused by this delay. We have indicated that we want to keep as near as possible to business as usual for those existing rural development schemes that will continue under the next programme. But we have to take account of the legal and financial issues. Given the changes to the legal basis for the next Programme under the new Rural Development Regulation, our own policy priorities and the ongoing uncertainties over approval, we need to take a prudent approach. For some elements of the programme we shall need to continue our discussions with the EU Commission before we make funding available.
From 1 January 2007, Environmental Stewardship (Entry Level, Organic Entry Level and Higher Level) will remain open to new applications. Successful applicants will be informed that their agreements are provisional. This means that agreements might have to be amended in the light of any changes caused by the EU approval process. However, we do not anticipate any major changes because the schemes were approved in 2005 under the current England Rural Development Programme.
Under the Energy Crops Scheme there are significant energy crop plantings planned in 2007, which have been carried forward from the existing programme. It is our intention to continue to support energy crop planting under the next Rural Development Programme. Although we will not be able to accept new applications from January, we expect to be in a position to accept applications under the new in summer 2007.
Responsibility for commitments to socio-economic projects made under the current programme passed to the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) on 1 October this year. This means that the RDAs expect to spend about £34 million between now and October 2008 on ongoing commitments. However, the RDAs will not be able to enter into any new commitments in advance of approval, although they will continue to work with rural businesses to discuss potential future projects. We will keep this approach under review as discussions with the EU Commission proceed.
Further details about what these arrangements mean for our customers will be available on the DEFRA website, and from our delivery partners for the next Programme: Natural England, the Forestry Commission and the RDAs.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Barry Gardiner): Following DEFRA's consultation earlier this year on the future uplands reward structure in England, we have decided to fully integrate uplands support within environmental stewardship.
After reviewing the consultation responses, and taking into account the need for effective planning and implementation, we are now minded to put in place a specific uplands strand to the entry level stewardship scheme by no later than 2010.
Uplands entry level stewardship will enable us to recognise the key role of upland farmers in delivering many of our environmental and landscape objectives, whilst also enabling us to better target the funding towards the delivery of public benefits. Like ELS, this new uplands strand would be open to all eligible farmers, and would offer a higher payment than ELS to reflect the higher costs of farming in these areas.
To ensure fullest environmental benefit, further scoping work is needed with Natural England and stakeholders. There will then be a further consultation on the final scheme design prior to implementation.
In the interim, we will continue to roll forward the hill farm allowance for three years from 2007 to 2009. Moving directly to uplands entry level stewardship from the hill farm allowance will avoid the costs to industry and Government of implementing a separate transitional scheme.
We also consulted on our plans to reduce the geographic coverage of the hill farm allowance (and future uplands support) by removing the disadvantaged areas (DA) from the scheme, thereby focusing uplands support on farms in the severely disadvantaged areas (SDA). We propose to do this from 2008. This proposal received general support in the consultation, given that in comparison to the SDA, land in the DA is generally higher grade agricultural land, is more accessible, and producers have more options to maximise the potential of the land. In addition, the single payment scheme will, over time, tend to favour farmers in the DA in comparison to the SDA (since the DA is subsumed within the lowland for the purpose of defining SPS regions and therefore receives a higher flat rate payment than the SDA).
The money saved by limiting the geographic coverage of the hill farm allowance will be retained within the rural development programme for England, to boost the funds available under environmental stewardship, including in the uplands. We have made a separate announcement today about the contingency arrangements we have put in place to cover the delay to the start of the next rural development programme in England.
Xenotransplantation is the use of live cells, tissues and organs from animal sources for transplants into humans. It can be viewed as a partial solution to the ongoing shortage of human organs and tissues for transplantation. It can also raise concernsfor the safety of the individual and the wider public, for the efficacy of the procedures, and for the welfare of the animals involved. To date there have been no xenotransplant procedures in the UK, and very few, if any, are anticipated over the next few years.
The Department has reviewed the interim xenotransplantation regulatory arrangements put in place by Ministers in 1997. At that time, the UK xenotransplantation Interim Regulatory Authority (UKXIRA) was established to develop a regulatory framework for xenotransplantation, and to advise Ministers on specific proposals for xenotransplant procedures.
UKXIRA was a pioneer in the early debates around xenotransplantation. Its approach has been reflected in a number of international recommendations and developments. In particular, EU legislation on medicinal products (Commission Directive 2003/63/EU) and the Clinical Trails Regulations (2004) make specific provision for xenotransplantation proposals. With these statutory arrangements now in place, UKXIRA has completed its work and it will cease to exist from today, 12 December 2006.
Following Robert Howard's acquittal in 2005 at Belfast Crown Court for the murder of Arlene Arkinson, the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland, in consultation with the Attorney-General, asked the retired Court of Appeal judge, Sir John MacDermott, to carry out an independent review of the decisions reached by the PPS in respect of the Arkinson case and in respect of Howard's sexual attack in 1996 on a 16-year-old girl, Miss X. This exceptional course was considered necessary because of the public concern expressed.
The Attorney-General has now received a copy of Sir John's report. Copies of the report, together with the Director's response have been placed in the Library. The report and Director's response are also available on the PPS website at www.ppsni.gov.uk.
The Minister for Science and Innovation (Malcolm Wicks): Today the Government have published new regulations transposing the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directives 2002/96/EC and 2003/108/EC in the UKthe Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations 2006.
Electronic and electrical equipment is the fastest growing waste stream in Europe. The UK alone produced over 2 million tonnes in 2005. The Directive has the laudable aim of reducing the amount of WEEE sent to landfill by promoting its separate collection, treatment and recycling.
From 1 July 2007, the WEEE regulations will make all producers, importers, and those selling EEE under their own brand, in the UK market, responsible for financing its treatment, recovery and environmentally sound disposal.
THe regulations published today have been the subject of extensive public consultation to ensure all interested parties have been able to present their views and concerns as the regulations were developed.
Achieve the environmental aims of the WEEE Directive while continuing to support the important and dynamic electrical and electronic sectors.
Provide effective and robust protection of the environment and a positive contribution to sustainable development from the increasing volumes of electrical and electronic equipment used in the UK.
Allow existing relationships currently managing WEEE to continue. This is consistent with the Government's overall approach to regulation, which is to be as light-touch as possible and to minimise red tape burdens.
Give distributors the choice of discharging their obligations by either joining the distributor take-back scheme (DTS) or by offering customers in-store take-back.
Enable any operator of a designated collection facility (DCF) to arrange with a producer compliance scheme (PCS) to have the WEEE deposited at their site taken away for treatment and recycling by that PCS, free of charge. If relationships cannot be developed the operator of the DCF can arrange the treatment and recycling themselves and their costs be reimbursed via an exchange and settlement process.
Support the re-use of whole equipment after it has been discarded by the consumer or business end-user. It provides encouragement to the further re-use of whole equipment by requiring producer compliance schemes to work with the re-use sector to prioritise the re-use of whole equipment where this is possible.
Allow the collection-on-delivery of old equipment for new equipment undertaken by retailers, and some producers, to continue in the UK in the future. Collection-on-delivery is valued by consumers for the convenience it brings in enabling them to discard of old equipment. The WEEE regulations
also allows WEEE collected by local authorities as part of their 'bulky waste collections' to continue in the future, as well as WEEE collected by the voluntary and charitable sector.
Enable consumers to dispose of their WEEE free of charge at accessible and appropriate places. People who dispose of their WEEE in this way will know that they will be contributing to protection of the environment, reductions in greenhouse gases and higher levels of sustainable development in the UK and in the world more widely.
As part of the last public consultation, I set out our desire to introduce partial producer responsibility from 1 April 2007 to ensure that producers were obligated to cover the costs of collection, treatment and recycling of EEE containing hazardous substances (for example CRTs, refrigerants and gas discharge lamps. The Government are planning to adopt this approach and I will be making an announcement shortly about the mechanism for doing so.
The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Dr. Stephen Ladyman): I have published a consultation paper seeking views on the European Maritime Green PaperTowards a future Maritime Policy for the Union: A European vision for the Oceans and Seathe EU Maritime Green Paper 11510/06 published by the European Commission 7 June 2006. The EU Maritime Green Paper is a wide ranging discussion document, intended by the Commission to stimulate debate about the future direction and focus of Community maritime policy.
The responses, together with input from the recent UK stakeholder conference on 12 October will inform the UK Government's response to the Commission. It is important that all UK maritime interests have an opportunity to reflect on the document and comment as the European Commission intends to develop formal proposals based on the outcome of a Europe-wide consultation and it is vital that the UK has a strong, informed voice in this process.
The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Douglas Alexander): I am today publishing Putting Passengers First: the Government's proposals for a modernised national framework for bus services. Copies are available in the Libraries of the House and Vote Office. The document represents the culmination of the Government's review of bus service provision, and our proposals are informed by the views of the industry, local authorities and, crucially, the travelling public. It sets out our thinking on the future direction of bus policy, to ensure that we gain the fullest benefit from the most-used form of public transport in the country.
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