The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Kitty Ussher): In a written ministerial statement of 10 October 2006, Official Report, column 11WS, the previous Economic Secretary undertook to report to Parliament on a quarterly basis on the operation of the UKs counter-terrorism asset freezing regime. This is the sixth of these reports and covers the period January to March 2008.(1)
The Treasury keeps domestic asset-freezing cases under review. A number of formal reviews have been initiated in this quarter and the review of four cases was completed. In all cases a decision was taken to delist the designated person.
In accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1452 (2002), the Treasury operates a licensing system whereby designated persons and others are able to apply to make or receive payments under specific and, if necessary, monitored conditions. In this quarter, the following licences were issued:
6 listed persons were granted legal expenses licences.
12 listed persons were granted basic expenses licences;
(1 of which was for benefits payments); and
no listed persons were granted extraordinary expenses licences.
In addition, the households of three listed persons were granted benefits licences in accordance with the
policy set out in the previous Economic Secretarys statement of 3 July 2006 to Parliament.
On 24 April the judgment in the High Court case of A, K, M, Q & G - v - HM Treasury was handed down, with the court ordering that the relevant legislation be quashed, but staying the effect of this to allow an appeal to be made. HM Treasury was granted leave to appeal. In the meantime, the asset-freezing regimes, and individual asset-freezes, remain in place.
(1) The detail that can be provided to the House on a quarterly basis is subject to the need to avoid the identification, directly or indirectly, of personal or operationally sensitive information.
(2)( )This figure represents the balance of the accounts at the time they were frozen and includes approximately $58,000 of suspected terrorist funds frozen in the UK. This has been converted using current exchange rates. Future fluctuations in the exchange rate may impact on the contribution this sum makes to future totals of suspected terrorist funds frozen.
The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Jane Kennedy): National statistics published today demonstrate the substantial contribution tax credits are making to deliver guaranteed minimum incomes for working families and families with children, reducing child poverty, and helping more people into employment.
more working people on low incomes without children received tax credits than ever before, with 305,000 receiving support through the working tax credit, up by 12 per cent. on 2005-06;
384,000 families benefited from the childcare element of the working tax credit, a 13 per cent. increase compared with 2005-06, thereby making childcare more affordable and giving parents more choice in how they balance work and family life; and
10 per cent. more families benefited from extra help for workers with a disability compared to 2005-06, helping these individuals overcome the labour market disadvantage they face.
Significantly, the figures show that efforts to reduce overpayments of tax credits have resulted in a £700 million reduction in overpayments since 2005-06. The level of overpayments is now less than half the level in 2003-04.
The Government remain committed to the current responsive system of tax credits, which in 2006-07 provided additional support to the 720,000 families experiencing an income fall. While this progress is welcome, I recognise that there is more to do, building on the success of the measures put in place since 2005. That is why the Government are today publishing a number of proposals to continue improvements to the
tax credits system, drawing on lessons learnt from the first five years of tax credits in the UK, and the experience of similar systems in Australia and New Zealand.
First, HMRC is introducing further operational improvements aimed at tailoring support more closely to individuals needs and making it easier for customers to claim, receive and renew tax credits, to reduce the scope for error.
Secondly, the document sets out a number of proposals that retain the ability for tax credits to provide additional, timely support to customers whose income falls or whose circumstances change, while giving customers greater certainty and more control over how they manage their tax credits affairs.
Some of these reforms are already being introduced and are delivering improvements for tax credit customers. Others will be brought forward in the next few years; while some of the proposed reforms, particularly to the system of childcare support, are much longer term. The Government are therefore keen to seek views, in order to inform longer-term policy development.
The Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Ed Balls): I would like to bring the House up to date about measures that are intended to improve the outcomes for some of our most vulnerable young people and to help children at risk of falling behind with their education.
Around 135,000 children and young people each year are in some kind of alternative provision because they are excluded from, or for some other reason are unable to attend, mainstream school. These children and young people are currently provided for either in local authority-run pupil referral units or in other alternative provision commissioned by local authorities and schools. Only 1 per cent. of 15-year-olds in pupil referral units gain five or more good GCSE examination results.
The Government are publishing a White Paper that will transform alternative provision into a vibrant and successful part of the whole education system, working in close partnership with mainstream schools, special schools, with childrens services and other agencies, to meet the needs of young people more effectively.
Some of the most vulnerable children and young people are in some kind of alternative provision, and they have as much right as any other pupil to a good education that allows them to realise their potential
and sets them on the path to success. The White Paper emphasises the key role for schools in identifying children with challenging behaviour early on, and being able to access the right support before they reach the point of permanent exclusion.
We recognise that there is much good practice in pupil referral units and other forms of alternative provision. However, we are determined to bring all providers of alternative provision and other support for children and young people up to the standard of the best so that we achieve a step change improvement in standards overall. Our proposals include:
intervening when pupil referral units fail, by requiring local authorities to replace them with a specified alternative, as announced in the draft legislative programme;
requiring a local authority, when necessary, to hold a competition to find the best provider of the specific alternative model that has been identified to replace a failing pupil referral unit;
collecting and publishing data annually on attendance at pupil referral units;
collecting and publishing educational outcomes data (GCSEs and equivalents) for pupils at the end of key stage 4 in alternative provision;
ensuring that all young people in alternative provision have a personalised education plan, so that their needs can be identified and assessed much earlier;
securing an appropriate curriculum entitlement for young people in alternative provision and work towards developing a national minimum standard of provision;
improving support for the workforce in pupil referral units and alternative provision and improving accommodation and facilities;
running up to 10 pilots to test a range of innovative and good practice models to deliver alternative provision.
We are confident that the proposals in this White Paper will address the weaknesses in the system and help young people get successfully back on track by creating a culture of early intervention, quality of provision, and strengthened accountability.
The Minister for Local Government (John Healey): We want to see a modern, efficient and secure electoral system, so that voting for all electors is as convenient and as straightforward as possible. In 2009 many electors are due to vote on two separate occasions within a space of four weeks, firstly in local council elections on 7 May, and secondly for the European Parliament on 4 June.
Accordingly, I am today publishing a consultation document inviting views on whether or not we should, subject to parliamentary approval, move the date of the English local elections from Thursday 7 May 2009 to Thursday 4 June 2009, the same day as the European parliamentary election. This consultation meets the statutory requirement set out in section 60 of the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007, which makes provision for the Secretary of State by Order to make such a change in the local election date.
In launching this consultation we have had regard to the experience in 2004 when local and European parliamentary elections were held on the same date. The turnout at those European elections was significantly higher than in previous years, up from 24 per cent. in 1999 to 38.5 per cent. We have also had regard to the Electoral Commissions conclusions in 2004 that the combination of the elections was an important factor in the improved turnout. It commented that before the next European parliamentary elections in 2009 further consideration would need to be given to the potential impact of the combination of elections.
whether the local elections in 2009 should be moved from 7 May to 4 June, so that they are held on the same day as the European parliamentary elections;
whether, if we move the elections to principal authorities, we should also move the date of parish council elections where they are scheduled to take place on 7 May 2009;
what practical issues may arise as a result of combining local (and where applicable, parish) elections with the European parliamentary elections; and
what action could be taken to address these practical issues - whether by local authorities, Government or the Electoral Commission.
I have placed copies of the consultation document in the Library of the House and it is also available on the departmental website. The consultation period ends on 11 August 2008. Under the 2007 Act, any Order to move the local elections in 2009 must be approved by parliament and made by 7 November 2008.
The Secretary of State for Defence (Des Browne): I am pleased to inform the House we have completed the necessary alignment of work schedule, commercial arrangements and planned annual expenditure, in relation to the Future Aircraft Carriers. This enables us to move ahead with the companies of the Aircraft Carrier Alliance to progress the contract for the manufacture of the two carriers to be named HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, which will enter service in 2014 and 2016 respectively. Following finalisation of legal arrangements and the formation of the planned naval shipbuilding and support Joint Venture Company, formal contract signature will take place. We have given our written assurance to the VT Group and BAE Systems of our intention to sign the contract once the company has formed.
The carriers will provide our front-line forces with the modern, world-class capabilities they will need over the coming decades. The work on the carriers will create or sustain 10,000 jobs across UK at the peak of its production.
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