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an option for staff leaving from 1 October 2007 to give up pension for a larger lump sum on retirement;
relaxation of service limits from 40 to 45 years (to be phased in from 1 March 2008);
replacement of the added years facility for topping up pension by a new added pension arrangement (from 1 October 2007 for staff over 60 and from 1 March 2008 generally); and
introduction, from 1 March 2008, of "flexible retirement" arrangements which will permit staff who reduce their hours or job weight to access their pension before full retirement.
Although unfunded, the PCSPS publishes an annual resource account, including its estimated liabilities, and undergoes regular actuarial valuations. The state of the scheme at 31 March 2007 is currently being assessed and I will place the results of the valuation in the Library when the report is agreed. The valuation is used to set the level of employer contributions to apply in future years; by convention a range of employer contribution levels apply, with higher percentage rates of contribution being paid for higher-paid staff. The average employer contribution is currently 19.4 per cent. of pensionable pay and this is taken into account in setting the overall level of civil service reward packages.
The PSF agreement recognised the importance of on-going scheme sustainability. This requires members to accept a degree of responsibility for future cost pressures, rather than seeing them as an issue for the employer (and taxpayer) alone. We will establish a Scheme Governance Group with employer and union representation to take work on this area forward. The Government will ensure that cost pressures identified at scheme valuations from 2010, that will be implemented
with effect from April 2012, are shared on a 50:50 basis between employers and staff. To the extent that such cost increases or reductions arise as a consequence of changes to the Treasury-mandated financial assumptions or from some fundamental changes to the actuarial valuation methodology the consequent impact on costs should continue to be absorbed by the employer through an adjustment in Accruing Superannuation Liability (ASLC) rates. The Government will also ensure that the average employer contribution is capped at 20 per cent. of pay (assuming no changes to the valuation approach). This approach is intended to deliver long-term sustainability through the reduction of taxpayer exposure to risks, principally those associated with improvements in longevity over and above the improvements already anticipated.
As and when cost-sharing takes effect, it is by no means axiomatic that member contributions will rise. While this approach would of course be one option, we would look to the Scheme Governance Group to suggest approaches designed to secure widespread acceptance by staff, to maintain scheme membership and to have particular regard to the impact on low-paid staff. We will consult with the unions in the near future on the detail of how this process should work, before amending the scheme rules to reflect the outcome of that process.
The Leader of the House of Commons (Ms Harriet Harman): I have today laid before Parliament the command paper The Governance of BritainPetitions. The Governments Response to the Procedure Committees First Report, Session 2006-07, on Public Petitions and Early Day Motions. Copies can be obtained from the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. It will also be available on the Office of the Leader of the House of Commons website at: www.commonsleader.gov.uk
The Leader of the House of Commons (Ms Harriet Harman): My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has today received the 3rd triennial report from the Senior Salaries Review Body on Parliamentary Pay and Allowances.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): To strengthen further the Governments ability to deliver across the entire equalities agenda, I am today announcing the establishment of a new Government Equalities Office.
The Government Equalities Office will be physically located with and supported by staff in the Department for Work and Pensions. It will have its own vote from the House of Commons. The Women and Equalities Unit, currently based in the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), will transfer to the new Office.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House of Commons will be responsible for the Equalities Office at Cabinet level as Secretary of State for Equality. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), my hon. Friend the Member for Stevenage (Barbara Follett), in addition to her current role, will be Parliamentary Under-Secretary in the Equalities Office, with the title Minister for Equality. The Permanent Secretary at DWP, Sir Leigh Lewis will become the Accounting Officer for the new Equalities Office.
my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House of Commons is the lead Cabinet Minister for women and is supported in this role by the Women and Equality Unit;
my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is the lead Cabinet Minister for disability issues, supported by the Minister for disabled people, my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Mrs. McGuire) and the Office for Disability Issues in his Department;
my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government is the lead Cabinet Minister for race and faith issues. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Competitiveness at the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform will also play an important role in advising the Government on issues of concern to faith communities.
The Sub-Committee on Communities and Equalities, a Sub-Committee of the Domestic Affairs Committee, will bring together Ministers from across Government to discuss key policies on equalities. This sub-committee is chaired by my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office.
I have today published a consultation paper on the role of the Attorney-General. The consultation period will run until the end of November.
When the Government published their Green Paper: The Governance of Britain this included a commitment to reform the role of the Attorney-General. This is a complex role which has evolved over centuries and comprises a broad and varied range of functions which are fundamental in upholding the rule of law. I am keen to have the widest possible engagement on the important issues raised, and would welcome responses from parliamentarians.
Copies of the report have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Tom Harris): I have today issued revised and expanded guidance to BRB (Residuary) Ltd. (BRBR) on the procedures that should follow prior to disposing of its non operational estate.
Historically, the company has been required to make an assessment as to whether a property is likely to be needed for a rail, other transport or Brownfield development use in the future. Part of this assessment has involved consulting parties in the rail industry, local transport and planning authorities and other potentially interested parties. The new guidance that I have issued today makes it clear that these arrangements will continue. In addition it now sets out in clear terms what we expect to happen as and when a consultee identifies such a use for the site in question. Specifically the company is now expected to ensure that the body that has expressed an interest in the site should take on the holding costs as soon as possible and acquire the site at market value, within a reasonable timeframe. The new guidance makes it clear that in the majority of cases a period of six months represents a reasonable timeframe for interested parties to acquire a site.
This new guidance will ensure that the company continues to facilitate and encourage transport and Brownfield development projects and that the promoters of such schemes have ample opportunity to purchase sites. It will also ensure sites can be released on the open market for development in a reasonable timeframe where no realistic transport or Brownfield development opportunities can be identified.
In the case of surplus BRBR land, which is not needed for a future transport use, BRBR and English Partnerships will be working closely together with a view to that surplus land being released for housing development, which is a key Government priority. A substantial number of BRBR sites have been identified for joint assessment with English Partnerships for housing development and a similar approach is being adopted in relation to Department for Transport agencies, such as the Highways Agency.
Copies of the revised guidance have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. A copy is also available on BRBRs website at: www.brbr.gov.uk.
The Secretary of State for Transport (Ruth Kelly): I am publishing today details of the number and cost to Departments of the provision of allocated cars and drivers by the Government Car and Despatch Agency to Ministers during 2005-06 and 2006-07.
|Department||No. of Ministerial Cars||Contracted cost (£)||Notes|
(1) Cabinet Office figures include cars for Ministers in the Cabinet Office, the Prime Minister's Office, the Chief Whip in the House of Commons and the Minister without Portfolio.
(2) The Minister of State for Trade, Investment and Foreign Affairs was a post held jointly between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Department of Trade and Industry. The Government Car Service (GCS) costs were met by the FCO.
(3) The right hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Hain) was both Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and Secretary of State for Wales. GCS costs were met by the Northern Ireland Office.
(4) The GCS car and driver provided to the Scotland Office was shared by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State and the Advocate General.
(5) The right hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire, South (Mr. Alexander) was both Secretary of State for Transport and Secretary of State for Scotland. GCS costs were met by the Department for Transport.
|Department||No. of Ministerial Cars||Annual Contracted Cost (£)||Notes|
(1) Cabinet Office figures include cars for Ministers in the Cabinet Office, the Prime Ministers Office, the Chief Whip in the House of Commons, the Minister without Portfolio and the Deputy Prime Minister (since May 2006).
(2) The Minister of State for Trade, Investment and Foreign Affairs was a post held jointly between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Department for Trade and Industry. The GCS costs were met by the FCO.
(3) Machinery of Government changes in May 2006 created the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Deputy Prime Minister's Office from The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.
(4) The right hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Hain) was both Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and Secretary of State for Wales. GCS costs were met by the Northern Ireland Office.
(5) The GCS car and driver provided to the Scotland Office was shared by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State and the Advocate General.
(6) The right hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire, South (Mr. Alexander) was both Secretary of State for Transport and Secretary of State for Scotland. GCS costs were met by the Department for Transport.
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