In the light of Sir David Varneys review of Tax Policy in Northern Ireland, published on 17 December and the Northern Ireland Executives draft Programme for Government and draft Budget published in October 2007, Sir David Varney will undertake a second review. Building on Sir Davids earlier analysis and agreement from all parties about the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland (in relation to the opportunities provided by the peace process, the need to strengthen the private sector, to create increased employment opportunities and to reform the public sector) this review will explore in more detail how to expand the private sector and to enhance Northern Irelands competitiveness. In this context, the review will look at incentives for supporting the sustainable growth of businesses, investment and employment in Northern Ireland and the implications for reducing the historic dependency on the public sector. This will include examination of incentives for growth in Northern Ireland that fall within the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Executive and the UK Government. Sir David will aim to report in good time for the US Investment Conference. He will be supported by a small secretariat and will receive direct and regular input from Northern Ireland Executive officials.
The data show the progress made by the Regional Development Agencies between April and September 2007 in delivering against the core output targets set in RDA corporate plans for 2005-08. The figures cover employment creation and support, business creation and support, leverage of public and private sector infrastructure investment, brownfield land reclamation/ redevelopment, and skills development.
The Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (Mr. John Hutton): The Government set out their vision for postal services in the UK in its 1999 White Paper Post Office Reform: A World Class Service for the 21st Century and took this forward in the Postal Services Act 2000. The Act had as its prime objective the maintenance of the universal postal service. It was designed to provide both social and business consumers with a more efficient and effective postal service through the introduction of competition and greater commercial freedoms for the Royal Mail to operate within a fully liberalised market while maintaining the provision of the universal postal service. We remain committed to this vision.
The postal services market was fully liberalised by Postcomm nearly two years ago on 1 January 2006. The Government believe that this has brought considerable benefits for the users of postal services. Royal Mail has, through the efforts of management and postmen and women up and down the country, significantly improved its performance, delivering quality of service levels that in the last full year were at record-breaking levels. New market entrants are providing increasing choice for consumers and pushing innovation in the industry.
The Government have demonstrated their commitment to seeing Royal Mail compete effectively in this new marketplace through an unprecedented level of additional investment (£2.1 billion in 2007) to enable the company to modernise. The result of the recent ballot on pay and modernisation means that management and staff have given the Royal Mail a mandate for modernisation.
It has become clear that the market conditions for all postal service operators are challenging, with growing evidence of e-substitution and more sophisticated use of mobile communication. Postcomms strategy review (The Postal Market 2010 and BeyondEmerging Themes) published in August 2007 noted that the postal market is changing and that they expected market volumes to decline. The European Union, supported by the British Government, recently set a clear timetable for a fully liberalised European postal services market by the end of 2010.
In the light of these significant developments, and in line with its manifesto commitment, the Government is launching a review of the postal services sector. The review will be led by an independent panel chaired by Richard Hooper and comprising Dame Deirdre Hutton and Ian Smith.
To assess the impacts to date of liberalisation of the UK postal services market, including on the Royal Mail, alternative carriers and consumers.
To explore trends in future market development and the likely impact of these on Royal Mail, alternative carriers and consumers
To consider how to maintain the universal service obligation in the light of trends and market developments identified.
The Minister for Competitiveness (Mr. Stephen Timms): My Department has today made regulations implementing many of the provisions of the Directive on Statutory Audits of Annual and Consolidated Accounts. (The Statutory Audit Directive2006/43/EC).
These regulations have been developed following two consultations, the first on the policy and the second seeking comments on a draft of these regulations. Alongside these regulations we are therefore publishing a summary of the comments received on the draft regulations, and a statement of the Governments conclusions.
The Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Ed Balls):
Last weeks Childrens Plan set an ambition for all new school buildings to be zero carbon by 2016, and announced the appointment of a taskforce to advise on how to achieve this ambition. I
will set out the details of the membership and remit of the taskforce in the new year.
In the meantime, we are taking action now to reduce carbon emissions in new school buildings while we work towards the zero carbon goal. I am announcing today details of 200 or so projects that we expect to benefit from an additional investment of £1l0 million over the next three years, with the intention of reducing carbon emissions by around 60 per cent. This provides an additional £50 per m(2) (about £500 k for the average secondary school) to invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy measures on school sites.