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20 May 2008 : Column 11WS

Written Ministerial Statements

Tuesday 20 May 2008


Asset Freezing Regime

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 UK’s counter-terrorism asset freezing regime. This is the sixth of these reports and covers the period January to March 2008.(1)

Asset-freezing designations

In the quarter January to March 2008, the Treasury made two domestic designations under the Terrorism (United Nations Measures) Order 2006.

One of these was a person already designated under earlier orders.

The Terrorism Order and the Al-Qaida and Taliban Order provide, where appropriate, for designations to be made confidentially and with restricted circulation of notice.

No persons were designated on this basis in this quarter.

The two persons were designated on the basis of closed source material provided by law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

There were no financial sanctions listings at the EU or the UN in relation to terrorism or al-Qaeda and the Taliban of persons with links to the UK.

A total of 263 separate accounts containing over £650,000(2) of suspected terrorist funds are currently frozen in the UK.


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:

In addition, the households of three listed persons were granted benefits licences in accordance with the
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policy set out in the previous Economic Secretary’s statement of 3 July 2006 to Parliament.


At the close of the reporting period there were eight active challenges against the UK’s asset-freezing regime pending in the High Court.

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.

Tax Credits

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.

The statistics published by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) show that in 2006-07 the child and working tax credits were benefiting around 6 million families and 10 million children.

The statistics also show that in 2006-07:

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.

There has also been a corresponding decline in the numbers of overpaid awards, from 1,879 thousand in 2003-04 to 1,291 thousand in 2006-07.

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
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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.

These proposals are set out in “Tax Credits—Improving Delivery and Choice: A Discussion Document” published today. They focus on three key areas.

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.

Thirdly, it sets out a range of possible options to reform the delivery of financial support for childcare through tax credits, simplifying the system as far as possible for customers.

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.

“Tax Credits—Improving Delivery and Choice: A Discussion Document” is being deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.

Children, Schools and Families

Young People

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 children’s 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
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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:

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.

Communities and Local Government

Local Government

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.

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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 Commission’s 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.

In particular we are seeking views on:

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.


Aircraft Carriers

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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