The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Stephen Timms): Following the announcement that the Budget will take place on 21 March 2007, HM Treasury plans to publish Public Expenditure Statistical Analyses 2007 on April 2007.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. David Lammy): I am today publishing a White Paper on the future of the Heritage Protection System entitled Heritage Protection for the 21st Century.
The paper sets out a vision of a unified and simpler heritage protection system, which will have more opportunities for public involvement and community engagement. The proposed system will be more open, accountable and transparent. It will offer all those with an interest in the historic environment a clearer record of what is protected and why; it will enable people who own or manage historic buildings and sites to have a better understanding of what features are important; it will streamline the consent procedures and create a more consultative and collaborative protection system.
Developing this White Paper has also been a collaborative process and its content reflects the huge contribution of stakeholders and of colleagues across Government and the devolved administrations. Together we have produced what I believe are a number of much needed and practical proposals that will transform the current heritage protection system, making it simpler, more flexible, more transparent and more accountable. They will enable our historic assets to be better understood and managed, while still continuing to protect them, now and for the future.
This is a White Paper for England and Wales with some UK-wide elements. The first part sets out legislative change and implementation arrangements for England; the second covers implementation arrangements in Wales; and the third part covers legislative change affecting the marine historic environment across the United Kingdom.
The proposals in Heritage Protection for the 21st Century are based on three core principles: the need to develop a unified approach to the historic environment; maximising opportunities for inclusion and involvement;
and supporting sustainable communities by putting the historic environment at the heart of an effective planning system.
The current heritage protection systems in England and Wales have different designation regimes for various aspects of the historic environment, and many decisions continue to be taken in Whitehall. As a consequence, the regime we have today is complicated and hard for the layman to understand. It can be bureaucratic and burdensome.
We therefore propose a single system for national designation to replace the listing of buildings, scheduling of monuments and registering of parks, gardens and battlefields. Responsibility for national designation of all these assets in England will rest with English Heritage. All national designation decisions will be made on the basis of special architectural, historic or archaeological interest, and those decisions will be made easier to understand through the production of detailed selection criteria for national and local designation. World Heritage Sites will be included in the unified register and their outstanding universal value recognised.
We recognise the need to improve the process of designating historic assets by involving the public in deciding what is protected and how. In order to do this we must have a system that is open, accessible and efficient. That is why we will create new Registers of Historic Buildings and Sites of England and Wales to replace existing lists and schedules, and introduce simpler and clearer designation records that will be available to the public online. We will also open up the system by introducing new or improved consultation and appeal processes, and ensure assets are protected when decisions are being made by introducing interim protection.
Heritage protection is an integral part of the planning process and in this paper we set out our vision of how we can support sustainable communities by putting the historic environment at the heart of an effective planning system, and devolving greater responsibility to local planning authorities so they can manage the historic environment alongside other planning responsibilities.
Alongside a single national designation system, we will join up and streamline the consent process and consult on the scope to reduce uncertainty and ensure early consideration of heritage issues through a greater role for pre-application discussion. In order to reduce application burdens and build flexibility into the system we will also introduce new statutory management agreements for more complex historic sites.
We will underpin any new legislation with new policy guidance, and work with English Heritage to implement a new programme of training, support and capacity-building for English local authorities and local heritage organisations. We will also improve access to information about the historic environment by introducing a statutory duty for local authorities to maintain or have access to historic environment records.
In the 21st century, demands on the UKs marine environment, which includes some of our most important historic assets, are growing. In order to ensure that this element of our heritage is protected and managed appropriately, we will develop a UK-wide marine heritage protection system, which provides appropriate protection for assets, is simple and clear, and delivers designation decisions quickly.
Accordingly, we will review the range of marine heritage that can be protected and increase protection for some assets; we will improve the designation regime and the information available about marine historic assets; and we will consider the scope for a new, more flexible, marine consents regime, including provision for voluntary management agreements.
Britains heritage is an important source of national and community identity. People recognise the importance and value of the historic environment, they are passionate about its preservation and are increasingly involved in celebrating the wealth of historic assets that surround them. The proposals in this White Paper reflect the fundamental role of the historic environment in shaping our towns, cities and landscapes and providing people and communities with a sense of identity and place.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Shaun Woodward): On 18 January this year, Official Report, column 933, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport announced that, from 1 April 2007, the fee for a colour television licence would rise to £135.50 and the black and white licence fee to £45.50. I am today laying before the House the regulations necessary to bring these new fees into force.
The regulations include a number of minor amendments to address anomalies in the existing television licence fee regulations. The amendments include provisions to ensure a digital set top box installed or used solely in conjunction with a black and white television set or a monitor that is only able to display black and white images will need only a black and white TV licence; that a digital set top box installed in such a way that it can be used for audio output only does not require a TV licence; that the Accommodation for Residential Care (ARC) concession is available to retired people aged 60 or over and disabled people in short term respite care in nursing and residential homes; and to increase the fee for the ARC licence, which has remained unchanged since 1988, from £5 to £7.50 to cover the cost of administering the concession.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Derek Twigg):
I am pleased to be able to announce to the House today the outcome of a wide-ranging review of Gurkha Terms and Conditions
of Service, which was announced by the then Secretary of State for Defence in January 2005. This has been a very comprehensive review and as a consequence it has taken longer than was originally anticipated.
As the House is aware, it has been the policy of successive British Governments to ensure that the terms and conditions under which Gurkhas serve in the British Army remain fair and reflect the needs of Gurkha soldiers and their families. The Gurkhas became a UK-based Brigade on 1 July 1997 and the time is now right for their terms and conditions of service to be revised fully to reflect their role and status in the 21st century.
As a result of this review I am pleased to announce that, with certain exceptions designed to satisfy the Government of Nepal, all the remaining differences between Gurkhas terms and conditions of service and those of their British counterparts are to be eliminated. I am making arrangements necessary to ensure that members of the British Brigade of Gurkhas retain their distinctive identity and ethos as Nepalese citizens serving in their own units within the British Army.
The measures necessary to implement the new terms and conditions of service will begin to take effect from April 2007. In the particular case of pensions, we propose to give serving Gurkhas the opportunity to transfer from their current Gurkha pension scheme to one of the two armed forces pension schemes (AFPS), from a planned member transfer date of 1 October 2007. Retired Gurkhas who left service on or after 1 July 1997 will also be given the opportunity to access AFPS benefits.
This is good news, both for serving or recently retired Gurkhas and their families and for the British Army. The move to new and fairer terms and conditions of service will hopefully provide the basis for the foreseeable future of Gurkha service in the British Army, which is only made possible by the long-standing and friendly relations between the Governments and peoples of the United Kingdom and Nepal.
The review did not include consideration of the situation of Gurkha veterans who retired before 1 July 1997, for the reasons which my predecessor made clear to the House last summer. We will continue to respond to veterans grievances with a view to resolving any misunderstandings which may have arisen.
A copy of the report of the review of Gurkha terms and conditions of service, which has been redacted so as not to disclose privileged legal advice, will be made available in the Library of the House.
The Secretary of State for Health (Ms Patricia Hewitt): On 22 November 2005, I announced in the House of Commons that a review of the arrangements currently in place for the seasonal influenza programme in England would be carried out. This review has now been completed and published today. A copy of the review has been placed in the Library.
The review details the current seasonal influenza vaccine supply system in England and provides a range
of recommendations to strengthen the management of the programme. I welcome the report and commend the reviewers for such a thorough piece of work. The Department will be considering the detailed recommendations.
I would also like to provide details of this years seasonal influenza vaccination uptake. Despite reported delays to the distribution of influenza vaccine at the start of the programme, by the middle of December 14.6 million doses of vaccine had been distributed in the UK. This is about 900,000 doses more than in the previous year.
Final vaccine uptake data collected by the Health Protection Agency on behalf of the Department at the end of January 2007 show that vaccine uptake in those aged 65 and over was 74 per cent. comparable to the level of 75 per cent. achieved at the same time last year. This compares with the World Health Organisation target of 75 per cent. by 2010. Vaccine uptake in those under 65 in an at-risk group was 42 per cent. compared to 48 per cent. at the same time last year.
These levels of vaccination represent an excellent achievement by the general practitioners, nurses, health service providers and primary care organisations that deliver this service, especially when taking into consideration the fact that vaccine deliveries were delayed by several weeks.
The Minister for Policing, Security and Community Safety (Mr. Tony McNulty): The statistics for 1 April 2005 to 31 March 2006 show that the number of police operations in which firearms were authorised was 18,891.
|Number of operations in which firearms were authorised|
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|