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Written Ministerial Statements

Wednesday 13 December 2006

Communities and Local Government

Climate Change (Zero-Carbon Development)

The Minister for Housing and Planning (Yvette Cooper): I am today announcing the publication of environmental measures in new housing as part of a wider package aimed at tackling climate change by moving towards zero-carbon development. These are:

All these documents will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

As the Stern Review made clear, climate change is a serious and urgent issue, and carbon emissions are the main cause. More than a quarter of the energy used in this country is used by domestic households. So, to meet our goal of reducing carbon emissions by 60 per cent. by 2050, we will need to ensure new as well as existing homes are environmentally sustainable.

There is also an urgent need to build more homes. Since the early 1980s we have not been building sufficient housing, market or affordable, to meet demand. On 29 November, we published “Planning Policy Statement 3—Housing”, which aims to increase housing supply to help ensure that the growing number of households have access to decent homes at prices they can afford.

But we need to make sure that the new homes are truly sustainable for the future; by 2050 these new homes will make up around a third of the stock. That is why we are publishing:

These measures will also promote an emerging market in environmental technologies, pushing innovation and driving costs down. A diverse energy market will mean consumers gain through lower fuel bills and warmer homes.

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Building a Greener Future

The consultation document “Building a Greener Future” sets out the overall strategy for moving towards zero carbon development. It sets out the three elements: a consultation on a timetable for progressively improving building regulations to achieve zero carbon homes by 2016; a draft planning policy on climate change (see below) and a Code for Sustainable Homes (see below).

The proposed timetable would see the energy/carbon requirements of building regulations revised to be equivalent to the following levels of the Code for Sustainable Homes:

In his pre-Budget Report 2006, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a time-limited stamp duty exemption for the vast majority of new zero-carbon homes. This exemption will provide an incentive for buyers of new homes to demand, and housebuilders and developers to offer, zero carbon homes in advance of Level 6 of the Code becoming a mandatory standard.

Planning Policy Statement: Planning and Climate Change

The planning system has an important role to play in setting out a framework for the location, siting and design of new development, and in helping to secure enduring progress against the UK's emissions targets. This draft PPS on climate change sets out how planning, in providing for the new homes, jobs and infrastructure needed by communities, should contribute both to the reduction of emissions and delivery of zero-carbon development, and to the shaping of sustainable communities that are resilient to climate change. We are putting tackling climate change at the centre of what we expect from good planning. This is why the new PPS will sit alongside and supplement PPS1, where we set out our core objectives for the planning system

The draft PPS sets out where and how planning can contribute most effectively. We expect to see:

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Code for Sustainable Homes

We are also publishing the final version of the Code for Sustainable Homes, which sets environmental sustainability standards which can be applied to all homes. A consultation on the Code was published in December 2005 with the Government's response to the Barker Review of Housing Supply. The Code applies only in England, although it will have implications for Wales.

The revised Code has six levels. Minimum standards at Code Level 1 are higher than the minimum mandatory standards in Building Regulations. There are set minimum energy/carbon efficiency and water efficiency standards at each level. The Code also rewards other environmental considerations, such as sustainable construction materials, recycling availability, cycle spaces and home offices, with credits towards their Code rating.

We are proposing that assessment against the Code starts for new homes in April 2007. This will put in place accreditation and assessment arrangements to ensure that new homes can voluntarily receive a Code assessment from that date. We are minded to propose mandatory rating against the Code of all new homes by April 2008, which we believe will encourage take-up of higher environmental standards, and boost demand for environmentally-friendly technologies and construction methods. A further consultation on this will follow in the new year.

Water efficiency in new buildings

The consultation sets out proposals for setting minimum standards for water efficiency in new homes and new offices and shops. It seeks views on the approaches suggested and on the performance standards that should be set for homes and the workplace.

These new regulations would provide minimum mandatory standards for water in the building regulations to underpin the minimum standards for water efficiency at level 1 of the Code for Sustainable Homes and will establish best practice in the water efficiency of offices and shops as the norm. The minimum standards would also contribute to the wider package of measures being developed by the DEFRA-led Water Savings Group to reduce consumer demand for water.

Constitutional Affairs

1911 Census Records

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (Vera Baird): My right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State has made the following written ministerial statement:

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

National Contingency Plan (Exotic Animal Diseases)

The Minister for Local Environment, Marine and Animal Welfare (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): I have today laid before Parliament the “National Contingency Plan for Exotic Animal Diseases” in accordance with section 14a of the Animal Health Act 2002 which came into force on 24 March 2003.

This plan sets out the operational arrangements DEFRA will put in place to deal with any occurrence of foot and mouth disease, avian influenza or Newcastle disease. It is composed of two elements: DEFRA’s framework response plan for exotic animal diseases, outlining systems, structures, roles and responsibilities during an outbreak of disease, and DEFRA’s overview of emergency preparedness which provides details of our preparedness and operational response.

It replaces DEFRA’s exotic animal disease generic contingency plan which was laid before Parliament on 15 December 2005.

DEFRA’s contingency plan is very much a ‘living document’. It will be subject to ongoing revision taking on the latest developments in science, research, and epidemiological modelling.

To meet the provisions of the Animal Health Act, the plan will also be subject to formal annual review.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group Meeting

The Minister for Trade (Mr. Ian McCartney): My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Lord Triesman of Tottenham) attended an Extraordinary Meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) on 8 December in response to the recent coup in Fiji.*

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Lord Triesman along with all members of the CMAG condemned the unconstitutional overthrow of the Fiji Government and agreed with other members of CMAG that such action constitutes a serious violation of the Commonwealth’s fundamental principles as set out in the Harare Commonwealth Declaration. It was therefore decided by the Group, in accordance with the steps set out in the Millbrook Commonwealth Action Programme on the Harare Declaration, that Fiji’s military regime should be suspended from the Councils of the Commonwealth with immediate effect awaiting re-establishment of democracy and the rule of law within the country. The implications of suspension mean that Fiji will be unable to participate in Ministerial meetings of the Commonwealth such as CHOGM, and will not receive new technical assistance under the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation. Nor can they receive contacts with the Commonwealth Secretariat, other than those of a mediatory nature in pursuit of the return of democracy.

The Group has urged both bilateral and multilateral actions from Commonwealth member countries to encourage a speedy return to democratic governance within Fiji. CMAG recognised that these actions should be directed to the fullest extent possible at the military regime and were not primarily intended to impact on the population. The CMAG recognised the importance of ensuring that the Fiji people should have the right to select a government of their choice through democratic means. CMAG agreed to send a mission to Fiji to mediate with all parties and to encourage a swift return to democracy. Such a mission may be carried out in conjunction with the UN and/or the Pacific Islands Forum and is likely to take place in the new year.

CMAG hopes that the restrictions imposed on Fiji, including the suspension of the military regime from the Council of Europe, will urge a swift return to a democratic and lawful society. The Commonwealth stands ready to help with this process.

Home Department

Independent Police Complaints Commission (Annual Report 2005-06)

The Minister for Policing, Security and Community Safety (Mr. Tony McNulty): I can today announce that the annual report of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is being laid before Parliament on 13 December 2006 and published on that day.

This is the second annual report from the IPCC. The report deals with the work completed in 2005-06 and, in particular, how the IPCC has dealt with the challenges which its second year of existence has brought and how it has engaged with diverse communities and stakeholders. It acknowledges that this has been a difficult year for the IPCC in which it has had to deal with many challenges
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and setbacks. The report also gives an insight into some of the high profile investigations in which the IPCC has been involved.

The report also looks forward to how the IPCC can help in showing how the new police complaints system can make a difference to policing. The three key areas which they suggest are: reducing the time it takes for bringing investigations of complaints to a conclusion; improving operational learning resulting from its work; and improvements to the discipline system.

Pilot Review Report (Project IRIS)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Joan Ryan): Today I am publishing the pilot review report for “Project IRIS (Iris Recognition Immigration System)”.

IRIS is the first major deliverable of the e-borders programme. Passengers enrolled on the scheme enter the United Kingdom through an automated immigration control barrier which incorporates an iris recognition camera.

Since January there have been in excess of 45,000 people enrolling on the scheme and over 135,000 barrier crossings have taken place. The e-borders programme is strengthening our borders and creating an integrated secure border for the 21st century.

Copies of the document entitled “Project IRIS (Iris Recognition Immigration System) Pilot Review Report” will be available in the House of Commons Library.

International Development

Palestinian Refugees (Government Contribution)

The Secretary of State for International Development (Hilary Benn): The Government will make a contribution of £76.6 million to help meet the basic needs of Palestinian refugees across the middle east over the next four years.

Palestinian refugees are among the very poorest people in the middle east. Their poverty levels are increasing, particularly where affected by conflict and insecurity, such as in the Gaza strip where refugees make up 70 per cent. of the population.

The 4.3 million registered Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza, Jordan and Syria need healthcare, education, housing, water and sanitation. The body charged with providing these basic services is the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which needs predictable funding to ensure it can plan and prioritise its work

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