Some £3.2 million will be allocated for the remainder of 2006-07 in addition to the £12 million interim grant provided earlier this year and, subject to the availability of resources, £29.2 million will be awarded for 2007-08.
Over the next two years, this funding will help achieve the pathfinders objectives to retain the more economically active of its residents at the same time as continuing to provide for and stabilise its growing population.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Angela E. Smith): Today I have laid a statutory instrument, The Building and Approved Inspectors (Amendment) (No.2) Regulations 2006 (SI 2006/3318), which amends part B (fire safety) of the building regulations.
The building regulations set design standards for new and altered buildings. These changes will affect future building work in England and Wales, (typically the erection, extension or material alteration of a building) and how fire safety is designed into a building. Separate legislation applies in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The main legislative changes are the introduction of a new regulation 16B to require the provision of fire safety information to the responsible person in respect of those buildings covered by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and a revised B3(3) (internal fire spread (structure)) which gives explicit recognition to the use of automatic fire suppression systems, such as sprinklers.
Guidance on how the functional requirements of the part B may be met in practice is given in approved document B. In support of the new legislation, I arranged for the publication of a new version of the guidance in approved document B which, as requested by stakeholders, particularly small businesses, has been split into Volume 1: Dwellinghouses and Volume 2: Buildings other than Dwellinghouses.
The changes to the guidance address a wide range of issues, including the use of sprinklers and door-closing devices, changes to the guidance on domestic loft conversions, introduction of a maximum unsprinklered compartment size for single storey warehouses, new guidance on residential care homes and increased measures to assist firefighters dealing with fires in tall buildings.
Protecting people from fire in their homes and workplaces remains a key element of Government policy on fire safety. The review looked at fire safety in all types of premises including dwellings, residential care homes, public buildings and warehouses. It also considered the important role sprinklers and other types of fire protection measures may have, particularly in buildings where the occupants are most at risk.
New provisions must be evidence-based and fully justified and taken forward in a robust and efficient manner. The review that led to these changes drew upon recent experience of actual fires. It took account of the findings of relevant research and the results of discussions with industry and other interested parties over several years, culminating in a full public consultation.
This package represents better defined and more efficient regulation that will deliver real benefits for both occupants and firefighters alike. A final regulatory impact assessment detailing the impacts of the fire safety aspects of the package has been published alongside the statutory instrument and approved documents, as have a number of relevant research reports.
The changes to the building regulations also include the authorisation of several new competent persons self-certification schemes that will enhance compliance, particularly in respect of the energy efficiency requirements of the regulations, and a number of other minor amendments, which will come into force on 15 January.
Copies of the approved documents will be placed in the Library of the House; and the final regulatory impact assessment on the fire safety changes will be placed in the House of Commons Vote Office and the House of Lords Print and Paper Office. They can also be accessed via the Communities and Local Government website at: www.communities.gov.uk/buildingregs. The supporting research reports can be accessed via: www.bre.co.uk/adb. Printed copies of the approved documents can be purchased from RIBA bookshops.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Meg Munn): I have today issued a consultation document on The application of the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive to stalled Reviews of Old Mineral Permissions and Periodic Reviews of Mineral Permissions in England. This seeks comments on proposals for amending regulations relating to England to, first, deal with initial reviews of old mineral planning permissions which are undetermined and so stalled for want of environmental information. Secondly, comments are sought on proposals to apply sanctions to make the application of the environmental impact assessment directive to all reviews of mineral planning permissions as effective as possible. Similar amending regulations are being proposed in relation to Wales.
The proposed regulations would put beyond doubt that the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) (England and Wales) Regulations 1999, as amended by the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2000 (the 2000 regulations), which include a sanction of suspension of operations for failing to provide the necessary environmental information, apply to stalled applications for initial reviews of old mineral permissions. These applications were submitted before the 2000 regulations came into force, and some have not been determined because necessary environmental information has not been provided.
Many mineral sites are operating under permissions granted many years ago which contained few, if any, conditions to mitigate the impact of mineral extraction. Uniquely within the planning system, legislation was introduced in the 1990s to review and update to modern environmental standards these old permissions which can last for many decades and to regularly review all mineral permissions. At that time, it was assumed that, because the reviews did not grant consent but merely updated mineral operating conditions, there was no need to apply the environmental impact assessment directive. However, subsequent court judgments established that conditions reviews did constitute development consent as defined in the directive, which had not, therefore, been fully transposed. Consequently, the 2000 regulations were introduced to apply the environmental impact assessment directive to these reviews.
Guidance issued with the regulations advised that they applied only to applications for review made after the 2000 regulations came into force on 15 November 2000. Operators of sites with applications for initial review which had not been determined by that date were asked to submit any necessary environmental information voluntarily. Most did so. But there are around 40 such applications in England which are stalled for a variety of reasons, including some where operators are refusing to provide environmental information when requested to do so by mineral planning authorities. There is currently no sanction to encourage them to do so and at active sites operations can continue under the terms of the original permissions with little or no mitigation of the environmental impacts.
Subject to consultation comments, the proposed amending regulations would apply the sanction of suspension for continuing failure to provide the necessary environmental information and so help to conclude these reviews and bring operations up to modern standards.
(a) automatic suspension of operations if additional environmental information required to enable a determination of whether a review requires an environmental impact assessment is not provided;
(b) a requirement for mineral planning authorities to consider making suspension orders to secure environmental remediation where operations have been automatically suspended for a period of 12 months without provision of outstanding environmental information; and
(c) a requirement for mineral planning authorities to make orders prohibiting resumption of mineral working where operations have been automatically suspended for 2 years without provision of outstanding environmental information.
Copies of the consultation paper have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The paper is also available on the Communities and Local Government website at: http://www.communities.gov.uk/index.asp?id=l505253. The consultation period ends on 12 March 2007.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (Bridget Prentice): My right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State and Lord Chancellor has made the following written ministerial statement:
I should like to inform the House that I have made the following appointments under schedule 1 to the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986:
The hon. Mr. Justice Lloyd Jones, appointed as Deputy Chairman of the Boundary Commission for Wales, for a period from 1 January 2007 to 31 December 2008;
Mr. Michael Lewer, CBE, QC, re-appointed as a Member of the Boundary Commission for England, for a period from 1 January 2007 to 7 October 2007; and
Mr. Robin Gray, re-appointed as a Member of the Boundary Commission for England, for a period from 1 January 2007 to 17 May 2009.
The Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Ms Harriet Harman): My noble and learned Friend the Secretary of State and Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, has made the following written ministerial statement:
I am very pleased to announce that I plan to implement sections 1 and 12 of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 on I July 2007. This confirms the commitment given by the Prime Minister on 6 December 2006.
Section 1 will make the breach of civil orders made under the Family Law Act 1996 a criminal offence punishable by up to five years imprisonment. The Family Law Act 1996 provides victims with the non-molestation order and the occupation order. Victims can apply to a court for a non-molestation order to forbid someone using or threatening violence and/or harassing, pestering or intimidating them. Victims can also apply for an occupation order to enforce their entitlement to remain in occupation of the home, make the respondent leave the home, or regulate the occupation by both parties.
Section 12 extends the powers on restraining orders under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 to cover all violent offences. It also provides the courts with the power to make an order where a person is charged, pending trial, or where a person is not convicted but the court considers that it is necessary to make an order to protect the victim. The benefit is that a court may make a restraining order even if a defendant has been acquitted of other charges but the court considers there is sufficient evidence of harassment that it is necessary to protect a person from harassment by the defendant.
Both of these measures will significantly strengthen the suite of measures available to courts. Earlier measures already introduced included:
making common assault an arrestable offence so that a police officer may arrest without a warrant under section 24 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1994. This provided the police with significant extra powers in respect of domestic violence and violent offences generally; and
amending the eligibility criteria in the Family Law Act so that same sex relationships are treated in the same way and to offer the same level of protection to people in relationships who are not living together.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (Bridget Prentice): The Electoral Administration Act received Royal Assent on 11 July 2006. The Act aims to tackle four areas at the core of a healthy democracy by improving access, improving confidence, extending openness and transparency of party financing and maintaining professional delivery of elections.
Introduction of new personal identifiers to absent voters;
Regulation of loans and donations; and
Handling of election documents.
Remaining provisions relating to CORE;
Provision of signatures in polling stations;
Reporting donations to include details of the nature of donation; and
Regulation of loans to Northern Ireland etc.
The Government are committed to improving access and engagement in the democratic process. Increased registration is one way to achieve this. Some 3.5 million people entitled to vote are not registered. We have therefore commenced provisions that allow anonymous registration for a person who believes that having their name and address on the register would put at risk the safety of themselves, or others in their household. In addition, people will now be able to register 11 days before the poll, whereas in the past the deadline was between six to eight weeks before the poll.
We have also brought into force a requirement for all persons applying to vote by post or proxy to provide their signature and date of birth. At elections, postal voters must provide these identifiers on their postal voting statement when they cast their vote. The Government believe this, along with the introduction
of new election offences, represents a comprehensive set of legislative changes that will improve confidence in the electoral system.
The Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Ms Harriet Harman): The Under-Secretary of State, my noble Friend Baroness Ashton of Upholland, has made the following written ministerial statement:
In July 2005, the Law Commission of England and Wales published its report: The Forfeiture Rule and the Law of Succession (Law Com no 295). The report recommends the reform of the law relating to the distribution of the estates of deceased persons where a legacy is forfeited or disclaimed. I am very grateful to the Law Commission for its report.
The Government have carefully considered the report and are pleased to announce that they accept all of the Law Commissions recommendations subject to minor modifications. Legislation will be introduced when parliamentary time allows.
The Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Ms Harriet Harman): My right hon. and noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Baroness Ashton of Upholland has made the following written ministerial statement:
Today the Government are announcing their timetable for the introduction during 2007 of the Mental Capacity Act 2005.
In April 2007 the Independent Mental Capacity Advocates (IMCA) and some directly related elements of the legislation to support it, the code of practice to provide guidance and the criminal offence of ill treatment and wilful neglect will be in place. In Wales, the Assemblys Minister for Health and Social Services will very shortly be determining the date of commencement of the IMCA service in the light of this statement.
From October 2007 the new court of protection, public guardian and the office of the public guardian will become operational for England and Wales, this will ensure adequate time to train the many civil servants and professionals affected by the Act and the very important changes that it brings. Lasting powers of attorney will also begin operating from this time.
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