28 Feb 2008 : Column 83WS

28 Feb 2008 : Column 83WS

Written Ministerial Statements

Thursday 28 February 2008

Communities and Local Government

Housing Market Renewal Programme 2008-11

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Mr. Iain Wright): The Housing Market Renewal Programme has made a major contribution to restoring confidence in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the country. I am therefore pleased to announce that we will be making a further £1.038 billion available to the programme over the period 2008-11.

Having considered business plans prepared by the 12 housing market renewal areas, I am today announcing allocations for individual areas as follows:

Proposed Distribution Across Individual Years£m
PathfinderTotal Allocation2008-092009-102010-11

Birmingham Sandwell





East Lancashire





Hull and East Riding





Manchester Salford










Newcastle Gateshead





North Staffordshire





Oldham Rochdale





South Yorkshire





Tees Valley





West Cumbria










Note: The allocation for South Yorkshire includes an allocation of £12 million over the three years for HMR activity in the South-East Wakefield housing market area of West Yorkshire.

This is substantial new funding, and, together with increasing investment from the private sector and support from local authorities and others, will help the market renewal areas take forward their ambitious programmes to bring real change to places that only five years ago were facing decline and abandonment.

Since the housing market renewal programme began in 2002, we have invested £1.2 billion, which has helped to refurbish over 40,000 homes, demolish 10,000 properties, and construct 1,100 new homes. As the National Audit Office recognised in its report on the programme published last year, all the pathfinders have succeeded in closing the gaps in prices with their regions, and housing markets in local authorities chosen for intervention have, on the whole, performed better than in other local authorities not chosen for intervention which had the most similar problems of low demand.

28 Feb 2008 : Column 84WS

‘The new funding I am announcing today will help take forward this work. Three-year funding will provide greater certainty for the housing market renewal partnerships to address long-term market failure. At the same time, we also want the partnerships to ensure that they are making appropriate connections to wider housing strategies and making links with growth programmes where relevant.

Figures for year 1 (2008-09) are firm commitments, and for years 2 and 3 (2009-10 and 2010-11) are indicative, and may change by up to plus or minus 10 per cent. These numbers will be confirmed at a later point, and will be subject to a number of factors, including progress in working with the new Homes and Communities Agency; progress in making links with growth initiatives where relevant; and future changes in local markets.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Environment Council

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Hilary Benn): I will represent the UK at the Environment Council in Brussels on 3 March.

At this Council, the Slovenian presidency will be seeking to agree three sets of Council conclusions. First, the Council will discuss the Environment Council’s contribution to the spring European Council. The conclusions will focus on the following key priorities: climate change and energy, in particular the legislative package recently proposed by the Commission, halting the loss of biodiversity, environmental technologies, and better regulation. The Council will also agree the EU’s negotiating position ahead of the fourth COP serving as the meeting of the parties to the Cartagena protocol on biosafety and the conference of parties to the convention of biological diversity both to be held in May 2008.

The Council will also hold two policy debates. First, on the Commission’s climate and energy package published on 23 January 2008, Ministers will be asked to consider the level of ambition contained in the package; whether the proposals put forward to ensure emission reductions are cost-effective and equitable; whether the proposed regulatory framework on carbon capture and storage is suitable; and the sustainability of the scheme. There will also be a policy debate on the Commission’s proposal for setting emissions performance standards to reduce CO2 emissions from passenger cars and light commercial vehicles. Ministers will be asked to consider whether the Commission’s proposal respects the criteria put forward by the Council and what can be done to further improve the balance between the different elements of the proposal in order to meet its environmental objectives.

Under “any other business”, the presidency will update the Council on the Euro VI regulations. Information on noise from military aircraft, emissions from shipping and the Danube-Black Sea Deep Navigation Canal have been requested by member states.

28 Feb 2008 : Column 85WS


Tooke Inquiry (Government Response)

The Secretary of State for Health (Alan Johnson): On 16 April 2007, my right hon. Friend the former Secretary of State for Health, the Member for Kingston upon Hall, West and Hessle (Alan Johnson) announced an independent review to examine the processes underlying modernising medical careers and make recommendations to ensure that any necessary improvements could be implemented for 2008 and the future.

The review was chaired by Sir John Tooke, dean of the Peninsula medical school, chair of the Council of Heads of Medical Schools and chair of the UK Health Education Advisory Committee.

Today, the Department publishes its response to Sir John’s interim and final reports. The response has been placed in the Library and copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office.

The review which he chaired was conducted independently of the four Health Departments and had its own independent secretariat. Its interim report was published on 8 October 2007. Following consultation with the medical profession and others involved, the final report of the review was published on 8 January this year.

Sir John and his colleagues have produced an excellent, wide-ranging review of the serious problems that arose within specialty training in 2007, the causes of those problems, and what needs to change as a result of them.

I would like to thank Sir John, his colleagues on the review, and all organisations and individuals who have given evidence to it and responded to its interim report. The Tooke review marks a significant step forward in ensuring excellence and high achievement remain at the heart of medical education and training in this country.

Progress has already been made. For example, one of the key lessons of 2007 was the need to develop policy and process in consultation with the medical profession, the NHS and others involved. That is why we have established the MMC programme board. Over half of the board’s members are drawn from the medical profession. I have accepted all of the programme board’s recommendations.

The complexity of this area of policy means that there are 47 separate sets of recommendations to consider within Sir John’s interim and final reports.

While not all of them are the direct responsibility of the Department, we accept the overwhelming majority of Sir John’s recommendations. For example, we accept Sir John’s recommendation that the Postgraduate Medical Education and Training Board (PMETB) and the General Medical Council (GMC) should merge to establish a single organisation for standards in medical education and training.

A small number of Sir John’s recommendations have implications that we need to consider very carefully. As Sir John’s report itself makes clear, the reform of postgraduate medical training should proceed in an evidence-based way, in which structures of governance and accountability are made clear, and in which
28 Feb 2008 : Column 86WS
training is carefully dovetailed with the needs of patients and other policy considerations.

My noble Friend the Lord Darzi of Denham is currently leading a next stage review of the national health service. Workforce planning, education and the role of the doctor are crucial parts of my noble Friend’s review. One of Sir John’s most far-reaching recommendations—the establishment of a new organisation to oversee postgraduate medical education and training in England—will therefore need to be carefully considered alongside this work.

Home Department

National DNA Database Ethics Group

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Meg Hillier): Further to my written ministerial statement on 25 July 2007, Official Report, column 78WS, I am pleased to announce the following additional appointments to the Ethics Group which provides Ministers with independent ethical advice on the operation and practice of the national DNA database (NDNAD):

Mr. Derek Campbell

Mrs. Julia Selman Ayetey

Innovation, Universities and Skills


The Minister for Science and Innovation (Ian Pearson): I am today placing in the Libraries of the House copies of a statement by the UK Government about nanotechnologies.

Nanotechnologies offer potentially huge benefits to society, industry, health and the environment. They can help us improve our quality of life and respond to some of the key issues of the day such as climate change.

The Government’s aim is for the UK to derive maximum benefit from these new technologies and their products. However, this must be done in a way that safeguards health, safety and the environment.

The statement describes what the Government are doing to deliver these objectives, in collaboration with a range of others including academia, industry, civil society groups and international organisations. It explains the steps that are being taken to:

From the start the Government have wanted to understand and address public aspirations and concerns about nanotechnologies. They have funded a series of in-depth discussions between members of the public,
28 Feb 2008 : Column 87WS
scientists and others who are involved in developing and exploiting nanotechnologies.

One of the messages that emerged was a desire for a clear statement about the way in which new and emerging areas of science and technology, such as nanotechnologies, are funded and regulated. This statement provides that information for organisations across the public sector. It also sets out how the Government and others are responding to other aspirations and concerns aired through public dialogue.

I have established a ministerial group on nanotechnologies to review the situation regularly and make sure that the UK continues to play a leading role in the understanding, development and regulation of nanotechnologies.


Cross-border Judgments

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Bridget Prentice): Today my right hon. and noble Friend the Attorney-General is publishing a consultation paper on new rules to clarify citizens’ rights when faced with judgments reached in another EU member state in their absence.

The UK is sponsoring this initiative of the Slovenian presidency because we believe reform is needed to improve the delivery of justice in these cross-border cases.

The purpose of the proposal is to tighten up the regime applicable in cases of trials in absence in the main EU mutual recognition instruments, enhancing the procedural rights of defendants. Trials in absence will not increase as a result of the proposal.

The Slovenian presidency hopes to reach agreement on the proposal very quickly. We are therefore asking for responses to our consultation within six weeks.

Copies of the consultation paper will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses and are also available on the internet at: http://www.cjsonline.gov.uk/downloads/application/pdf/2008-02-28_TIA_consultation _paper.pdf

Next Section Index Home Page