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Written Ministerial Statements

Thursday 22 November 2007



The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Kitty Ussher): Items on the agenda are as follows:

Preliminary Draft Amending Budget No. 7 for 2007— Finance Ministers will be invited to adopt Preliminary Draft Amending Budget 7. This would amend the 2007 budget to reflect latest implementation capacity.

Letter of Amendment No. 2 to the Preliminary Draft Budget for 2008—Finance Ministers will be invited to adopt amending letter 2 to the Preliminary Draft Budget for 2008. The letter reflects latest information on agricultural prices and other developments influencing future implementation capacity.

Draft Budget for 2008The Council will look to agree their second reading of the 2008 Draft Budget and finalise figures for compulsory expenditure (mainly agriculture), in preparation for the subsequent Conciliation with the European Parliament. The UK will seek a budget that respects the principles of budget discipline and sound financial management and reflects realistic forecasts for agriculture and structural funds spending.

Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform

East of England Regional Development Agency

The Minister for Competitiveness (Mr. Stephen Timms): I have decided to appoint the new Board Members listed below.

Stuart Evans

Beverley Hurley

The new appointments will all be for a period of three years.

I have also decided to re-appoint Marco Cereste for a further period of three years

The appointments will begin on 14 December 2007 and will expire on 13 December 2010.

I have placed further details of the new appointments in the Libraries of both Houses. They were all made in accordance with the code of practice of the Commissioner for Public Appointments.

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Marco Cereste

Marco is currently coming to the end of his second term as an EEDA Business Board Member. He has built a very successful and diverse group of family business operating in the UK and Italy which he now chairs. Marco was elected for a second time earlier this year to the Peterborough council after a five year gap. He has also worked in the NHS for 22 years and is Chair of the Peterborough Primary Care NHS Trust and Anglia Support Partnership. He is Deputy Chair of the Greater Peterborough Partnership and holds a number of other non-executive directorships including Standard Life Healthcare and the Peterborough Urban Regeneration Company. He has been an elected member of the C.G.I.E; this council meets at the Italian Foreign Office in Rome and represents all the Italians not resident in Italy. In 2002 he was awarded the title of Grand Ufficiale, the highest honour in Italy’s oldest order. Marco was previously appointed to the EEDA Board by a Minister. He has obtained office as a local councillor, has held office as chair, treasurer and secretary of the local branch of the Conservative Party and canvassed on behalf of the party.

Stuart Evans

Stuart Evans is an entrepreneur and Chartered Director. He was the founding CEO of Plastic Logic Ltd. a highly successful Cambridge University spin out that has won £75 million investment in potentially world-changing plastic electronics technology, initially for flexible displays in electronic books and newspapers. He has a Cambridge BA/MA, Harvard MBA and a twenty year international career of successful venture capital backed technology start-ups. His business skills include:-fund raising, building teams, spin-outs, exits and acquisitions, sales and marketing, corporate governance and turnarounds. He is a non-executive director of Huntingdon-based Pursuit Dynamics plc. and a Trustee of the Arthur Rank Hospice Charity in Cambridge. Stuart holds no other ministerial appointment and has not undertaken any political activity in the last five years.

Beverley Hurley

Beverly started out in social housing and regeneration in inner city London. Her career then took her to Canada, where she helped pioneer a major change management project for a global gold mine. On returning to the UK, Bev established two more successful businesses prior to joining YTKO, a thriving consultancy specialising in the commercialisation of science and technology innovation. Becoming CEO in 1999, she has led the company’s expansion into Europe, adding strategic marketing and investment services for high-growth start-ups, and increasing the company’s business support services for the public sector. She created the Norfolk Network to stimulate greater enterprise and innovation in the county, and leads the Enterprising Women programme across the East of England. Bev holds a number of public positions including Prowess and the Norfolk Exchange, and is an Enterprise Fellow at the UEA’s Business School. Beverly holds no other ministerial appointment and has not undertaken any political activity in the last five years.

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Manufacturing Strategy

The Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (Mr. John Hutton): The Government’s Manufacturing Strategy has proved to be a valuable framework, successfully developing programmes such as the Manufacturing Advisory Service and National Skills Academy for Manufacturing, while targeting financial support in key areas such as science.

The UK is the sixth largest manufacturing country in the world. It represents 14 per cent. of GDP, accounts for more than half of our exports, three quarters of business R&D and directly supports 2.9 million jobs.

But rapid global and technological advances are changing the economic challenges for manufacturers in Britain. China and India already account for nearly 50 per cent. of world real GDP growth. Their importance as a driver for future growth is set to continue in 2008 and beyond.

The Government are committed to helping strengthen the future of our manufacturing sector by supporting companies to embrace new opportunities in increasingly competitive global markets. We will therefore renew our Manufacturing Strategy over the coming months to address that challenge. The renewed strategy will pay particular attention to opportunities for Britain to lead global markets created by the need to tackle climate change.

I am today announcing the formulation of a Ministerial Advisory Group to help renew the Manufacturing Strategy. This new group will be made up of a core membership of CBI, TUC, Engineering Employers Federation, Technology Strategy Board, and Regional Development Agency together with representatives from industry and trade unions. The group will report to my right hon. Friend, the Minister of State for Competitiveness and provide advice on key areas impacting on all aspects of manufacturing.

The Government will seek the views of manufacturers and other stakeholders across the UK in developing the strategy. A number of regional events will be undertaken as part of the process, which will be co-ordinated with regional Ministers and regional offices.

Full details of the Ministerial Advisory Group membership will be announced shortly. This group replaces the Manufacturing Forum, to whom I am extremely grateful for their work in steering the manufacturing strategy from 2004-07.

Children, Schools and Families

Early Years (Capital Funding)

The Minister for Children, Young People and Families (Beverley Hughes): I am announcing today £642 million of capital investment in early years settings from 2008-09 to 2010-11 to ensure every child can access high quality provision. This funding will play a key part in enabling local authorities to meet their duties to secure sufficient childcare in their area, to improve outcomes for children in the early years and to narrow the gaps between the most disadvantaged children and others.

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This capital funding will focus in particular on the private, voluntary and independent (PVI) sector to ensure that all settings are of the highest quality and that all children—including those with disabilities—are able to access provision. The grant will also support small sessional providers to make the investments needed to deliver childcare more flexibly.

The grant aims to: (i) improve the quality of the learning environment in early years settings to support delivery of the Early Years Foundation Stage, with a particular emphasis on improving play and physical activities and ICT resources, (ii) ensure that all children, including those with disabilities, can access provision in line with the new duty placed on local authorities in the Childcare Act 2006, (iii) enable PVI providers to deliver an extended free early education offer for all three and four-year-olds and make access more flexible.

Communities and Local Government

Home Information Packs

The Minister for Housing (Yvette Cooper): The Government set out their approach and criteria for phasing the implementation of Home Information Packs (HIPs) including Energy Performance Certificates on 11 June. Sixty per cent of the market is now covered by HIPs. And the criteria for roll out to the rest of the market have now been met. We will therefore complete the phased roll out by extending coverage to the rest of the market from 14 December.

First time buyers of one and two bedroom homes will be the main beneficiaries as they will now get important information about their new home for free. Information such as searches for which they would previously have had to pay will now be included in the HIP paid for by the seller, reducing the costs of the first step onto the property ladder.

But all householders will benefit from having detailed information about the energy efficiency of their home, and measures to save on their fuel bills and cut carbon emissions.

Two hundred thousand Energy Performance Certificates have been generated since the summer. The analysis of the early phase of rollout of HIPs found that the average rating for homes was an E, and we know that approximately one-fifth of all homes are likely to get an F or G rating. This means that basic measures could significantly cut both fuel bills and carbon emissions. The Energy Savings Trust have also estimated that homeowners could also save around £300 a year on fuel bills from implementing the recommendations in the Energy Performance Certificate.

We will establish a new Green Homes Service to offer those buying or selling a home with an F or G rating free or discounted help with energy efficiency measures, by linking them up with grants and loans provided by energy companies and others. Home buyers could potentially be eligible for hundreds of pounds to get help with insulation or other improvements.

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As set out in the criteria of 11 June there are now sufficient energy assessors and home inspectors fully qualified and accredited to provide Energy Performance Certificates for all homes bought and sold. Some 5794 people are now accredited.

In addition, the government has also conducted monitoring and analysis of the implementation programme to ensure continued smooth roll out. Early monitoring shows:

The Government have also commissioned and considered extensive analysis by Europe Economics on the impact of HIPs on the market. We are today publishing their independent report which includes modelling on the impact as well as analysis of the first few months of implementation. It finds no evidence of any impact on transactions or prices, although there is a predicted short term impact on new listings as sellers change the timings of their listings. It concludes that the impact on listings is short lived, and the impact on the market is marginal compared to the wider factors.

We also asked Europe Economics and Dr. Peter Williams who is a member of the National Housing and Planning Advice Unit to consider whether changing housing market conditions meant we should change the approach to completing the roll out. Their conclusion was that there are strong arguments for rolling out as planned, and that further delay could cause greater difficulties and uncertainties in the market.

In the light of this evidence therefore we will tomorrow lay the commencement order to extend HIPs and EPCs to one and two bedroom properties from 14 December. In order to ensure continued smooth implementation, we are also extending the temporary provisions on first day marketing for all properties from 1 January to 1 June, providing flexibility for sellers as part of the roll out to one and two bedroom properties.

The implementation of Home Information Packs so far, and the work of the Stakeholder Panel, has also highlighted further improvements that are needed to benefit consumers.

HIPs have already led to improvements in the delivery and cost of searches, with significant reductions in the cost of searches, and in some areas, substantial reductions in the delays in producing searches. However, there are still wide variations in costs and services and we want to see further improvements for consumers. We will therefore publish guidance on access and charging in December for local
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authorities and personal searchers with the aim of speeding up searches and delivering a fairer deal for consumers.

We have asked Ted Beardsall, Deputy Chief Executive of the Land Registry—and member of our Home Buying and Selling Stakeholder Panel—to advise on what else could be done to improve the search process, ensuring better quality and timeliness of information, and improving value for money for consumers.

Stakeholders have also raised concerns about the costs and timeliness of leasehold information, and the impact that this will have on Home Information Packs when one and two bedroom properties are included given the higher number of leasehold properties. In the majority of cases we would expect leasehold documents to be readily available and easily provided as part of Home Information Packs. However we are aware that some leaseholders, whether in the pre-existing system or creating a HIP, can find the relevant documents difficult to obtain quickly. We know that some also face disproportionate charges to access their documents.

As leasehold information is an important part of the home buying and selling process, and is already generally paid for and provided by the seller, we continue to believe there are considerable advantages to consumers from having leasehold information early on in the Home Information Pack. However, to ensure continued smooth roll out we will phase the introduction of leasehold information in response to stakeholder concerns. We will temporarily amend the HIP regulations so that the lease document itself must be included, but other leasehold information will be introduced as a requirement in six months time. This will allow HIPs for one and two bedroom properties to bed down in advance of leasehold information being required. In the interim, we have also asked Ted Beardsall to advise us and the Home Buying Stakeholder panel on what more can be done to improve the timeliness and cost of leasehold information, alongside the work on searches.

From April 2008, we will begin to roll out EPCs for newly built homes, as well as across commercial property for sale, rent or construction. By October 2008 all public buildings will have a display certificate.

All these measures are designed to promote the interests of the consumer. We will continue to actively monitor the rollout of HIPs and energy performance certificates and the home buying and selling process to ensure we can respond where further improvements are needed. The introduction of HIPs is part of a wider programme of reforms to home buying and selling including e-conveyancing and better redress, which aims to provide consumers with a clearer, more transparent and effective service, with better value for money, benefiting all potential homebuyers and helping in tackling climate change.

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