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Written Ministerial Statements

Wednesday 28 March 2007

Treasury

Financial Inclusion

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Ed Balls): The Government are today publishing a document, “Financial inclusion: the way forward”, setting out general principles for its ongoing financial inclusion strategy.

The Government have three goals for financial inclusion:

“Financial inclusion: the way forward” affirms the Government's commitment to promoting financial inclusion in the next spending period. From 2008 to 2011, financial inclusion policy will be supported through a new Financial Inclusion Fund. While the amount of the fund will be determined after the Comprehensive Spending Review, the current level of intensity of action to promote financial inclusion will be maintained.

A detailed action plan will be developed by a cross-Departmental ministerial working group, which will report after the Comprehensive Spending Review. The Financial Inclusion Taskforce, which monitors progress and advises the Government on financial inclusion policy, will be extended until March 2011.

The document also announces further spending on financial inclusion in 2007-08; £6 million will be made available to the Department for Work and Pensions, to support credit unions and Community Development Finance Institutions in making affordable credit and banking services available to financially excluded consumers.

The document details progress made to date with financial inclusion objectives. The Government agreed a goal, shared with the banks, to halve the number of people living without access to a bank account. The number of adults living in households without access to a bank account fell from 2.8 million in 2002-03, to 2 million in 2005-06. The number of unbanked households also fell, from 1.9 million to 1.3 million, during the same period. Steady progress is being made with Government's shared goal.

The document announces the Government's continued commitment to working with banks and other financial services providers to reduce the number of unbanked people further, and to promote wider financial inclusion. The Government have asked senior representatives from the banking sector to work with the Financial Inclusion Taskforce to consider how to achieve a nationwide increase in the coverage and capacity of third sector lenders such as credit unions.


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As announced in the 2006 pre-Budget Report, the Government asked Brian Pomeroy, Chair of the Financial Inclusion Taskforce, to conduct a review of Christmas savings clubs and hamper schemes. Following the collapse of Farepak in November 2006, the purpose of this review was to increase understanding of who uses these schemes and why, and also to consider how the saving needs of this group of consumers might be better met by mainstream financial products. The review is published today by the Treasury.

The Government have responded to the recommendations made in the review in today's financial inclusion document. Its response includes an announcement that the Department of Trade and Industry has secured agreement from the hamper industry to establish an industry-led scheme to ensure that consumers' interests are fully protected. The scheme will establish secure, ring-fenced accounts, and will be implemented as soon as possible.

The Government also announce that £1 million will be made available to the Office of Fair Trading to run a consumer awareness campaign. This campaign will inform consumers of the options available to them, including mainstream accounts, for saving towards Christmas.

Other responses to the Pomeroy review from the Government were as follows:

The Treasury Committee conducted an inquiry into financial inclusion in the spring of 2006, and published three reports detailing its findings, in November and December 2006. The Government have sent their response to the inquiry to the Treasury Committee today.

Copies of both “Financial inclusion: the way forward” and the Pomeroy review of Christmas savings are available in the Vote Office and in the Library of the House.

Communities and Local Government

Leasing Business Premises (Code of Practice)

The Minister for Housing and Planning (Yvette Cooper): I wish to make a statement about Government policy on commercial leases and the launch of a new property industry Code of Practice for Leasing Business Premises.


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The starting point is the need for a modern, efficient, competitive industry. The UK commercial property industry is acknowledged as one of the foremost and sophisticated in the world, exporting its expertise globally.

However, the Government challenge to the industry is to provide a flexible framework, creating a new partnership between owner and occupier. Our policy is based on careful and thorough research of the property market.

We have had a positive and collaborative response from all sides of the industry—owners, occupiers, small business organisations and the professional bodies. The industry has developed new ways of working, setting up the Owner and Occupiers' Forum and the Property Industry Alliance. Alongside this, Government have been working with business to bring about change.

The outcome has been agreement on a new Code, which I am launching today. This comprises three documents: a Landlord's Code of Practice, an Occupier Guide and Model Heads of Terms. The Landlord's Code is significantly stronger in tone and content than the previous Code, while the occupier guide and model heads of terms are designed to improve business understanding of lease terms, helping them to get more suitable lease terms.

It is essential the industry follows this through, and I welcome plans for wide dissemination of the Code. My challenge to the industry is to ensure that the Code is used in all lease negotiations.

The British Property Federation are introducing an accreditation scheme identifying landlords who are committed to the new Code. This will include an independent complaints procedure. I hope the professional bodies will introduce similar arrangements for their members.

I recognise the considerable changes in commercial leasing practices over recent years, especially the trends towards shorter leases. But I am concerned about continuing elements of inflexibility, particularly the predominant use of upward only provisions in rent review clauses and inflexible provisions for tenants exiting property they no longer need.

We will want to keep a close eye on market practice in these areas. If the market does not deliver, we have identified legislative options. Communities and Local Government will shortly be consulting the bodies that drew up the Code about suitable monitoring arrangements.

Copies of the Code for Leasing Business Premises will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Constitutional Affairs

Her Majesty's Land Registry

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

“The following list sets out the key performance targets that have been set for Her Majesty’s Land Registry for 2007-08.

Customer Service

Speed:

Accuracy:

Overall Satisfaction(1):

Financial

Efficiency(2)

Strategic Development Areas

Customer Service

Land Registration

Electronic Service Delivery

Other Business Development


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Target 2006-07Performance as at January 2007 (unless otherwise stated)Target 2007-08

Customer Service

Customer Service

Speed

Speed

Percentage of official copy and search applications processed within two working days

98

98

98

Percentage of all registrations processed within 18 working days

80

88.6

80

Accuracy

Accuracy

Percentage of registrations processed free of any error

98.5

98.85

98.5

Overall Satisfaction(1)

Overall Satisfaction(1)

Percentage of customers who, overall, are very satisfied/satisfied with the full range of services provided by Land Registry

Better than 95%

98.5

Better than 95%

Financial

Financial

Percentage return on average capital employed

3.5%

17.6

3.5%

Efficiency(2)

Efficiency

Cost per unit in cash terms(3) (real terms)(4)

£29.95 (£21.17)

£25.93 (£18.33)

Cost per unit in cash terms(3 )£29.95 (real terms)(4 )(20.61)

(1)Result from quarterly satisfaction survey (Ytd Quarter 3), next result due April 2007.
(2)This is a final year target towards the HM Treasury-agreed cost per unit target for 2006-07 of £29.95 in cash terms (£21.17 in real terms). Target adjusted for revised pension costs.
(3)Based on the GDP deflator issued by HM Treasury on 21 December 2006 (base year 1992-93)
(4)The real term unit cost in the base year of 1992-93 was £30.65.

Strategic Development Areas Strategic Development Areas

Customer Service

Customer Service

Introduce imagery bases access to Land Register Online

Achieved

Provide a sustainable and scaleable e security infrastructure solution, providing role-based access, identity management and future e-signature functionality, for Land Registry’s external and business customer base.

Land Registration

Land Registration

Add a further 700,000 hectares(5 )of land to the total areas of registered freehold land in England and Wales

Achieved

Add a further 550,000 hectares of land to the total areas of registered freehold land in England and Wales.

Electronic Service Delivery

Electronic Service Delivery

Introduce prototype chain matrix service to provide transparency to residential conveyancing chains

On target

Complete a review of responses to the consultation paper on the Land Registration (Network Access) Rules and the Land Registration (Electronic Communications) Order and report to Ministers.

Other Business Development

Other Business Development

Establish a Land Registry Portal as a first step in implementing a single integrated customer interface for all online Land Registry information and services.

Achieved

Carry out the migration of all Land Register Online services to the Land Registry Portal.


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