5 Jun 2007 : Column 7WS

5 Jun 2007 : Column 7WS

Written Ministerial Statements

Tuesday 5 June 2007

Communities and Local Government

City Development Companies

The Minister for Local Government (Mr. Phil Woolas): I am today publishing my Department’s summary of responses to the consultation document “The Role of City Development Companies in English Cities and City-Regions”. Copies are available in the Libraries of both Houses.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Informal EU Agriculture Council (20-22 May 2007)

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Miliband): I represented the United Kingdom at the informal EU Agriculture Council in Mainz, Germany. Ministers debated the future of EU rural development and agriculture policy.

The meeting started with a short presentation by representatives of young farmers organisations. Following the presentations, the Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner, Mariann Fischer Boel began discussion on the “future of rural areas” by stressing the importance of agriculture in rural areas in the European Union, and highlighting difficulties and new opportunities that were faced by rural regions. She said that rural development policy would become increasingly important.

The following themes were mentioned by EU Ministers during the discussion session: multi-functionality of agriculture; climate change; renewable raw materials; increasing standards of food safety, animal welfare and environmental protection; diversification; tailoring rural development policy to local needs; simplification of the CAP; training; and the role of policies other than the CAP (for example, education, health, transport, telecommunications).

The chair of the Agriculture Council under the German presidency summarised the session by concluding that services, crafts, industry and trade played a particularly important role for rural regions, in addition to agriculture and forestry. He pointed out that one of the main requirements for rural regions was an adequate and attractive infrastructure, such as nurseries, schools and modern telecommunication technologies. He said that in order for the EU’s Lisbon and Gothenburg strategies to be a success in delivering greater sustainable growth and employment, there was a need for both urban and rural areas to be vibrant. Finally, he added that the common agricultural policy has an effective instrument for supporting rural areas through the European agricultural fund for rural development.

5 Jun 2007 : Column 8WS

Pesticides Safety Directorate (Performance Targets 2007-08)

The Minister for Local Environment, Marine and Animal Welfare (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): I have set the Pesticides Safety Directorate (PSD) the following performance targets for 2007-08.

1. To evaluate pesticide approval applications and applications for detergent derogations according to published targets and fees and contribute effectively to the review programme for pesticides.

2. To ensure that UK objectives are reflected in EC legislation, to actively monitor the use of pesticides, to secure a high level of compliance with pesticide regulations and to contribute to the Government’s better regulation agenda.

3. To promote the sustainable use of pesticides through appropriate regulatory and voluntary measures and provide information to all stakeholders on pesticide issues.

4. To manage all resources effectively, to recover the full cost of operations from industry and from DEFRA and to contribute to the Government’s efficiency agenda.

Further details are given in the “Pesticides Safety Directorate Three-Year Business Plan 2007-10:Year 2007-08”, copies of which will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Veterinary Products Committee Annual Report 2006

The Minister for Local Environment, Marine and Animal Welfare (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): I have received the annual report of the Veterinary Products Committee and its sub-committees for 2006, which has been published today.

Bound volumes of the report have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

I am glad to acknowledge the valuable work done by the distinguished members of the Veterinary Products Committee and its sub-committees and thank them for the time and effort dedicated in the public interest to this important work.


NHS Foundation Trusts (Authorisations)

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Andy Burnham): The chairman of Monitor (the statutory name of which is the independent regulator of NHS foundation trusts) announced last week that, in accordance with section 35 of the National Health Service Act 2006, Monitor had decided to authorise the following NHS acute trusts as NHS foundation trusts from 1 June:

5 Jun 2007 : Column 9WS

Monitor’s announcement brings the total number of NHS foundation trusts to 67. A copy of Monitor’s press notice has been placed in the Library.

The Government remain committed to offering all NHS acute and mental health trusts the opportunity to apply for foundation status as soon as practicable. Monitor is now authorising trusts on a monthly basis, and further waves of NHS foundation trusts are set to follow.

Home Department

“Safe, Sensible, Social - Next Steps for the National Alcohol Strategy”

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Vernon Coaker): The Government believe that while alcohol plays an important and positive role in our culture and economy excessive consumption among some sections of the population is cause for considerable concern. More needs to be done to promote sensible drinking and ensure those of us who do drink alcohol do so in a safe, sensible and social way.

In 2004 the Government published the “Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy for England”. This was a major milestone; the first cross-Government statement on the harms caused by alcohol, which included a shared analysis of the problem and programme of action to respond through better education and communication, improving health and treatment services, combating alcohol-related crime and disorder, and working with the alcohol industry.

The last three years have seen significant progress through the ‘Know Your Limits’ binge drinking campaign, ‘THINK!’ driving campaign, enforcement of Ofcom’s new code on television advertising, the first national trailblazers project identifying the need for and availability of alcohol treatment, trailblazer projects to identify and advise people whose drinking is likely to lead to ill health in the future, new enforcement powers in the Licensing Act 2003 and the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006, setting up of local partnerships such as ‘Best Bar None’, and the establishment of a new independent charity, the Drinkaware Trust, to educate and promote sensible drinking.

Recent announcements of the progress being made on the labelling of alcohol drinks and the Tackling Underage Sales of Alcohol Campaign (TUSAC) further demonstrates that progress is being made.

“Safe, Sensible, Social—Next Steps for the National Alcohol Strategy” builds on the foundations which have been laid and the lessons learnt since 2004.

The strategy aim is:

It will do this by:

18-24 year old binge drinkers—A minority of which are responsible for the majority of alcohol-related crime and disorder in the night-time economy

Young people under 18 who drink alcohol—Many of whom we now know are drinking more than their counterparts did a decade ago.

Harmful drinkers—Many of whom do not realise their drinking patterns damage their physical and mental health and may be causing substantial harm to others.

Shaping an environment which actively promote sensible drinking, through investment in better information and communications, and by drawing on the skills and commitment of all those already working together to reduce the harm alcohol can cause, including the police, local authorities, prison and probation staff, the NHS, voluntary organisations, the alcohol industry, the wider business community, the media and of course with local communities themselves.

A substantial programme of work will be delivered in support of these aims. This will include:

Sharpened criminal justice for drunken behaviour—To bear down on those committing crime and anti-social behaviour while drunk and where appropriate, offering advice, support, and treatment to offenders to change their behaviour.

A review of NHS alcohol spending —To highlight the burden of alcohol-related harm to the NHS and inform smarter spending decisions.

More help for people who want to drink less —Through the development and promotion of sources of help such as telephone help lines, interactive websites and support groups.

Toughened enforcement of underage sales —Through the use of legislative powers to prosecute and even close premises that persistently sell alcohol to children.

Trusted guidance for parents and young people —In the form of authoritative, accessible guidance about what is and what is not safe and sensible in the light of the latest available evidence from the UK and abroad.

Public information campaigns to promote a new ‘sensible drinking’ culture —Through a new generation of publicity campaigns which promotes sensible drinking and highlight the physical and criminal harms related to alcohol misuse.

Public consultation on alcohol pricing and promotion —To find out if alcohol pricing and promotion cause people to drink more.

Compulsory local alcohol strategies —Through which all local strategic artnerships—comprising the police, local authorities and civil society organisations will be required by law to have established a strategy to tackle alcohol related disorder on their patch, by 2008.

The Government recognise that promoting a sensible drinking culture which reduces violence and improves health, is a job for the whole of society. Everyone has a personal responsibility to drink in a sensible way. Parents and guardians should look at the example they
5 Jun 2007 : Column 11WS
set in their drinking habits. Educating young people and parents about harms associated with alcohol misuse, through both alcohol education in schools and through the provision of authoritative information and guidance is a key priority for the Government. The friends and family of antisocial and harmful drinkers can provide support and encouragement to those trying to curb excessive drinking habits, local communities and residents can raise concerns about licensed premises with the police or local authorities. Business and industry have made important contributions already but should look for ways to promote sensible drinking and the responsible management of licensed premises.

This Government believe that it is possible to make this country a healthier, safer place to live where more people drink in a safe, sensible and social way. But we will only achieve this if we all pull together, and ‘call time’ on the way some of us drink.


Burial Law Reform

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Ms Harriet Harman): In 2001, the Government undertook to conduct a review of burial law, a survey of burial grounds, and certain other initiatives, in response to the recommendations of the Eighth Report on cemeteries by the Environment Sub-Committee of the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Select Committee.

Following preparatory groundwork, in 2004, the Home Office issued a public consultation paper on burial law reform and in 2006 we published a report on the responses. The survey of known burial grounds in England and Wales was also undertaken. Over 10,000 completed questionnaires were received.

Although most people now opt for cremation, about 150,000 people are still buried in cemeteries and churchyards every year. Millions of graves are extant throughout England and Wales. It is right to expect sustainable, high standard, burial facilities for our communities. Yet, in some areas there are difficulties in finding sufficient, local, space for new graves. Maintaining existing old burial grounds can also present particular problems.

One solution which the Government have been urged to consider is the reuse of burial grounds after a suitable lapse of time. It is a solution which can offer sustainable land use for the future, and the prospects of keeping burial facilities in good order and near to the communities they serve. It is an option which has received wide support.

The Government are now satisfied that it would be right to enable graves to be reused in this way, subject to appropriate safeguards. For example, no grave should normally be reused unless the last burial took place at least 100 years before. And families should have the opportunity to defer reuse of their relatives’ graves for at least another generation.

We therefore intend to introduce measures which, using powers available under the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994, will allow local authorities
5 Jun 2007 : Column 12WS
to reuse graves in their cemeteries, if they wish. At the same time, we will develop, in consultation with burial professionals and others, good practice guidance on the reuse of old burial grounds, the provision of burial space generally, and the maintenance of existing burial grounds.

The 2004 consultation paper raised a number of other issues, in particular regarding the case for modernising the law relating to the regulation of burial and burial grounds. Details of the Government’s response to these issues have been published today. In general, we propose to introduce effective and affordable changes where legislative opportunities arise, and we will keep the need for further measures under review. In the meantime, there appears to be scope for making certain administrative and procedural improvements, and we propose to work with burial professionals to promote practical changes where they will improve the services available for bereaved people.

Work on the responses to the burial ground survey of England and Wales has now been completed and a report on the findings has also been published today. The survey results indicate that less than three-quarters of burial grounds now have room to accept new burials, with only about 20 per of all designated burial land as yet unused. Burial grounds with unused burial space predict that the median time remaining until their land will be fully occupied by graves is about 25 to 30 years.

There is considerable regional variation in these values, and, while the survey results do not reflect trends and issues at a very local level, they suggest that there is particular pressure on burial space in predominantly urban areas, and that there will generally be increasing pressure over the next 10 to 20 years.

Our survey has provided us, for the first time, with an essential factual basis on the number, size and usage of burial grounds. This will help inform future policy and operational development.

Finally, concerns have been expressed in recent years about the action taken by some local authorities to make safe unstable memorial stones in their cemeteries. It is essential that gravestones and cemeteries are maintained in a decent and respectful way. Last March, in conjunction with Government colleagues, and the chairmen of the Health and Safety Commission and of the Local Government Association, I issued advice to all authorities on how managers should strike a more sensitive and proportionate balance between their responsibilities for ensuring safety in their burial grounds and the needs of visitors and memorial owners.

I believe that our recent work and all the measures now proposed will go a long way to improve, modernise and secure local burial facilities for all those who seek a dignified resting place for their relatives and the preservation of our rich inheritance.

Copies of “Burial Law and Policy in the 21st Century: The Way Forward” the Government response to the consultation have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses, the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. Copies are also available on the internet at:


Next Section Index Home Page