|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
The Secretary of State for International Development (Mr. Douglas Alexander): To address better persistent poverty in Latin America, I have decided to increase DFIDs financial support to the region and change the way the support is provided. Financial support provided by DFID will increase by 15 per cent. and will be provided through civil society organisations and international institutions.
Civil society organisations are at the front line of tackling the social exclusion and inequality responsible for persistent poverty in Latin America. Channelling more support through NGOs will help address these important issues.
The World Bank and European Commission will continue to be important regional development agencies, together providing over $4 billion to Latin America. Our finance and influence in the Bank and EC will continue to be central to our support to the region.
an increase in funding for UK NGOs working in Latin America, from £7 million to £12 million per year;
£5 million per year for new research on climate change and ecosystems in Latin America;
£1 million per year to share lessons from the Latin American development experience with other developing countries around the world;
increases in our support to Latin America through the World Bank and European Commission, from £65 million to £73 million per year in total; and
we will continue to provide about 20 per cent. of the funding for the ECs programmes to help farmers diversify out of coca in Colombia and Peru, the two biggest coca-producing countries. The EC is also developing a coca diversification programme for Bolivia.
As Nicaragua becomes a middle-income country in 2008, we will maintain our programme at £4 million per year, switching funding for the Government to providing support through other channels, including civil society.
We will maintain our office in Brazil, with a focus on climate change and Brazils role in global development. At the same time, we will close our offices in Nicaragua and Bolivia, which will not be needed to deliver our new regional programme.
We will continue to strengthen and monitor the operations of the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank and EC in Latin America through our representatives in Washington and Brussels and staff in the UK.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Mr. Michael Wills): The Government have today laid before Parliament the Review of Voting Systems: The Experience of New Voting Systems in the United Kingdom since 1997 (Cm 7304).
This report delivers the Labour 2005 manifesto commitment to review the experience of the newly introduced voting systems for the Scottish Parliament, the Northern Ireland and Welsh Assemblies, the European Parliament, and the London Mayor and Assembly, to inform the ongoing debate about the voting system in the House of Commons.
Since 1997 the Government have embarked upon a major programme of constitutional change: devolving power away from Westminster, enshrining fundamental rights in the Human Rights Act, introducing freedom of information and completing the first stages of reform to the House of Lords. New voting systems were introduced when the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and Northern Ireland Assembly were established in 1998. In addition, a new voting system was introduced for elections to the European Parliament in 1999, and for elections to the Greater London Assembly and the London Mayoralty established that year.
To that end the Government established the Jenkins Commission to report on a suitable voting system for the House of Commons. In 1998 Jenkins proposed a completely new voting system for Westminster called
the Alternative Vote Plus. At the time the then Home Secretary, now my right hon. Friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, stated:
we need to see how the new elections systems settle down in Scotland, Wales, London and the European Parliament... a great deal of constitutional change is under way, and the British people would not thank us for moving too quickly without thinking carefully about how changes fit into the whole
The new voting systems introduced since 1997 have now been in place for some time and provide experience of up to three elections in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, and two elections for the European Parliament, London Mayor and London Assembly. We therefore have a wealth of practical experience from within the United Kingdom upon which to draw.
This review provides a summary of the experiences of the new voting systems introduced over the past decade and on that basis sets out the advantages and disadvantages associated with each. It uses a range of commonly accepted criteria for assessing the experience of the new voting systems. These include the degree of proportionality under different systems, the impact on voters in terms of the choices available, voter turnout rates, the impact on political campaigning, social representation, Government formation and Administration of elections under different systems.
The experiences of some other countries, including New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland, Germany and the Netherlands, which have similar systems to those introduced within the United Kingdom, is also examined. In addition the review refers to the findings of other studies into voting systems within the United Kingdom.
It remains the Governments strong view that since the voting system for Westminster Commons elections could fundamentally change the way parliamentary democracy operates, any proposed changes would need to be endorsed by a referendum.
At this point, it would be premature to seek to reform the electoral system for the Commons while the voting system for a reformed and substantially or fully elected House of Lords is still to be determined. Reform of the electoral system for the Lords to a wholly or 80 per cent. elected chamber was supported by the House of Commons free vote in March 2007 and the Government are committed to formulating a comprehensive package of Lords reform, including developing detailed proposals for a wholly or mainly elected second chamber. Good progress is being made on the cross-party talks on Lords reform and the Government intend to publish a White Paper in the first part of 2008 reflecting the outcome of these discussions.
This review will be available on the Ministry of Justice website at: http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/voting -systems-review.htm and Governance of Britain website at: http://governance.justice.gov.uk for interested parties, as well as through the Stationery Office (TSO).
The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Ms Rosie Winterton): I have today announced the publication of a consultation document looking at a number of ways of making the blue badge scheme more secure and ensure it continues to benefit those who need it. We are consulting on the eligibility criteria for the scheme together with better ways of administering and enforcing the scheme in order to cut down on levels of abuse.
I have also announced today the publication of revised local authority guidance for England and the launch of a new £500,000 Blue Badge Centres of Excellence Fund, to promote best practice and improve consistency on the administration and enforcement of the scheme.
The final report has been published today and is available on the DfT website at: www.dtf.gov.uk/transportforyou/access/bluebadge and addresses the following issues:
Eligibility (who should qualify for the scheme?)
Concessions (which concessions should apply?)
Better administration (how can the scheme be more consistently administered and enforced?) and;
Choice and alternatives within the scheme
We are now consulting on a number of issues that arose from the report. The Departments draft response to the review, that is included as part of the consultation document published today, reflects our preliminary thinking and is designed to help us to modernise the scheme within the context of current transport policy; making it more consistently administered, tougher on fraud and
easier to understand. The Department will be working closely with stakeholders, including disabled groups, throughout the consultation period.
Extend the reach of the scheme, for example, ensuring more parents of severely disabled children are eligible for a badge;
Give parking attendants the power to confiscate on the spot blue badges that have been stolen, forged or are being fraudulently used;
Improve the security of the badge design to prevent forgeries;
Create a system of national data sharing, to help identify blue badge cheats;
Launch a public awareness campaign to increase understanding of the scheme.
The final date for responses to be received by the DfT is 17 April 2008. The full consultation document is available on the DfT website at: www.dft.gov.uk/consultations
The revised guidance, that is available on the DfT website at: www.dft.gov.uk/transportforyou/access/bluebadge showcases good practice in administering and enforcing the Scheme.
The DfT are now looking to appoint a number of local authorities to act as centres of excellence in relation to the scheme. £500,000 has been made available to fund a small set of English local authorities to improve their services and share their good practice with neighbouring authorities in the 2008-09 financial year.
Copies of the consultation document, and other related documents, have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses and are also available on the Departments website at: www.dft.gov.uk. Further copies of the consultation document can also be obtained from the Vote Office.