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Four judgments have been handed down by the High Court in control order cases during this reporting period. Three of these judgments have related to the substantive reviews of control orders under section 3(10) of the 2005 Act. A judgment in the case of Secretary of State for the Home Department v. AE was handed down on 20 March 2008; the court upheld the necessity of the control order on national security grounds and ruled that the control order hearing complied with Article 6 of the ECHR. In the same judgment, the court dismissed an appeal by AE against the increase in the length of his curfew, but upheld an appeal relating to the restrictions on visitors to AE’s residence. On 9 April 2008 a judgment was handed down in the case of Secretary of State for the Home Department v. AF. The court found that further disclosure of closed material by the Secretary of State would be necessary in order for the hearing to comply with Article 6 of the ECHR. The control order remains in force while an appeal by the Secretary of State is considered by the Court of Appeal.

The judgment in the case of Secretary of State for the Home Department v. AH was handed down on 9 May 2008; the court upheld the necessity of the control order on national security grounds and ruled that the control order was compliant with Article 5 and Article 3; the court also ruled that the hearing complied with Article 6 of the ECHR. In addition, an oral judgment was handed down in the case of GG on 2 May 2008 in which an application for interim relief was refused by the High Court.

The Secretary of State has lodged three appeals with the Court of Appeal in this reporting period. Appeals were lodged on Article 6 grounds against the High Court judgments in the cases of AN and AM which were handed down in the previous reporting period. An appeal was also lodged against the judgment in the case of AF handed down on 9 April 2008. Three appeals have been lodged by, or on behalf of, controlled persons with the Court of Appeal. AE is challenging the judgment handed down on 20 March 2008 on Article 5 and Article 6 grounds. Special advocates in the case of AF have lodged an appeal against the closed judgment handed down on 9 April 2008. AH has applied for permission to appeal the judgment handed down on 9 May 2008.

Innovation, Universities and Skills

“Work Skills”

The Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills (Mr. John Denham): Today my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and I are publishing a Command Paper, “Work Skills”, setting out the progress made since we jointly published the January 2008 Command Paper: “Ready to Work, Skilled for Work: Unlocking Britain’s Talent”. Copies of which are available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.

The paper firstly sets out how we are making the skills system more responsive to the needs of both individuals and employers, and how we are extending
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the principle of rights and responsibilities to those with skills needs which are preventing them from finding work.

In today’s global economy Britain must compete through higher levels of skills. We must take advantage of new opportunities, new jobs and new industries and make sure that all the people and places across the country are able to benefit.

We are determined to unlock the talent and potential of all our people. We therefore need to give people the skills that will be required in both today’s and tomorrow’s labour market.

To achieve this, we are extending entitlements to training for young adults in work and also looking at how everybody can have their own personal skills account so that they can get the training that they need and the jobs that they want.

The right skills are crucial to getting people who are out of work into a decent job or helping them start their own business. And they are also crucial to getting a better job too. We will now make sure that when people sign on for benefits, they sign up for skills as well. Increasingly, addressing skills needs where they are preventing someone from returning to work will be an important part of receiving out-of-work benefit.

The paper also shows how we are radically improving how our welfare and skills services are delivered. This will ensure our services work more closely together, and that they are driven by those who know best how to shape support to meet local needs.

With this package of proposals we will develop the talents and skills of our people and build stronger foundations for the future success of Britain and her people.

Leader of the House

State Opening of Parliament

The Leader of the House of Commons (Ms Harriet Harman): Her Majesty the Queen will open the new Session of this Parliament on Wednesday 3 December.

Transport

Parking Contravention Regulations

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Ms Rosie Winterton): The Secretary of State for Transport has today laid a statutory instrument which amends the Civil Enforcement of Parking Contraventions (England) General Regulations 2007. This action arises out of an anomaly created by the Traffic Management Act 2004 affecting the ability of non-Metropolitan district councils to employ civil enforcement officers to enforce in off-street car parks.

The SI will enable parking attendants appointed by a local authority under Section 63A of the Road Traffic Regulation Act to take enforcement action in limited circumstances—mainly off-street car parks—in districts outside London where the councils have the power to enforce parking contraventions.


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Dartford - Thurrock River Crossing

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Ms Rosie Winterton): In December 2006 we consulted on proposed changes to charges for use of the Dartford crossing to address continuing congestion pressures. The proposals were to tailor charges better to the conditions at the crossing, including raising cash charges to £1.50 for cars in the daytime and removing charges altogether at night when traffic flows more freely.

In response to that consultation exercise there were calls to introduce a discount scheme for local residents. The Government announced that they would develop a discount scheme for consultation, whilst going ahead with the proposed increases.

We launched a consultation on the local discount scheme on 16 February 2008, and it closed on 16 May 2008. 67 responses were received.

The Government are today publishing a summary of responses and our conclusions following the consultation exercise. I am placing copies in the Library of the House. The Government have taken careful note of the responses received and have concluded that the scheme should be implemented as proposed, subject to removing to the requirement for an initial sum to be credited to accounts. The key proposals relating to eligibility, the annual administration fee, entitlement to 50 free journeys, and journeys charged at 20p thereafter, are confirmed.

The Government expect to implement the scheme in the autumn, along with the other changes on which we consulted in 2006-07. This included raising cash charges for cars from £1 to £1.50. The Government wish to highlight the fact that car drivers who opt to pay via a Dart-TAG and account will still be able to cross for £1, regardless of where they live.

We are aiming to introduce the changes in the autumn and we will confirm the precise date when the order is laid.

Work and Pensions

Agency Targets and Business Plans

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (James Purnell): On 27 March 2008, I issued a Written Statement (Col 21 WS) announcing the annual performance targets in 2008-09 for the executive agencies of the Department for Work and Pensions.

One of the targets for the Pension, Disability and Carers Service—“Clear new applications and changes of circumstances to pension credit within an average of 15 working days”—was incorrect.

The correct target should have read “Clear new applications to pension credit within an average of 15 working days”.

A further target for the Pension, Disability and Carers Service—“Achieve 82 per cent. of customers satisfied with the service they receive”—requires clarification.

An explanatory footnote is required to explain that the 2008-09 customer satisfaction survey will focus on customers of the former Disability and Carers Service.
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The target of 82 per cent. will relate to the former agency and not all the customers of the Pension, Disability and Carers Service.

For completeness the full set of targets is set out below:

Performance Standards

Performance Standards for Pension Customers

To deliver an annualised value of new successful pension credit applications of £767 million and to secure at least 250,000 successful new pension credit applications.

Achieve an accuracy rate of 92 per cent. on new claims and changes of circumstances to pension credit.

Achieve an accuracy rate of 98 per cent. on new claims and changes of circumstances to state pension.

Clear new applications to pension credit within an average of 15 working days.

Clear at least 95 per cent. of new claims to state pension within 60 days.


Performance Standards for Disabled People and Carers

The number of disability living allowance/attendance allowance cases referred to the tribunal service to be no more than 4.5 per cent.

Achieve 82 per cent. of customers satisfied with the service they receive.(1 2)

Clear new claims for disability living allowance within 38 days.

Clear new claims for Attendance Allowance within 16 days.

Clear new claims for carer’s allowance within 13.5 days.

Reduce the costs of processing benefits to £34.35.

Achieve an accuracy rate of 94 per cent. on decisions on claims for disability living allowance.

Achieve an accuracy rate of 94 per cent. on decisions on claims for attendance allowance.

Achieve a financial accuracy rate of 98 per cent. for carer’s allowance.

(1)The 2008-09 customer satisfaction survey will focus on customers of the former Disability and Carers Service. The target of 82 per cent. will relate to the former agency and not all the customers of the Pension, Disability and Carers Service.

(2)The Disability and Carers Service had adopted the same methodology for establishing a base for customer satisfaction since 2004, whilst continuing to review the structure of the MORI poll. 2007 provided the opportunity to expand the scope of the annual survey to better represent the cases where benefit is disallowed. From 2004-05 to 2007-08 the results of the survey are comparable. For 2007-08 an additional figure for the revised baseline will also be provided that will be used for target and comparison purposes for 2008-09.


Joint Performance Standards for the Pension, Disability and Carers Service

To have less than 1 per cent. of calls receiving an engaged tone.

To have at least 93 per cent. of calls answered by an advisor.

We aim to reduce staff sickness absence to less than 8.2 average working days lost.

We will undertake, throughout the year, specified checks and other actions designed to prevent and detect fraud and correcting fraud and error in a minimum of 50,600 cases as a result.


Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr. James Plaskitt): The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council was held on 9 June 2008 in Luxembourg. The UK was represented by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Employment
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Relations and Postal Affairs. Health and Consumer Affairs issues were taken on 10 June.

Political agreement was achieved on the working time and agency workers directives. A good outcome was achieved for the UK on both these important dossiers. On working time we secured the continued right for individuals to opt out of the 48-hour week, with no suggestion of end date or phasing out—for which many others have pressed; a work-life balance provision that is in keeping with current UK policy on the right to request flexible working; a secure solution to the problems raised by the SiMAP and Jaegar judgments meaning that inactive on-call time does not have to count as working time; satisfactory safeguards on use of the opt-out, with necessary flexibility for short-term contracts; and a maximum cap of 60-65 hours, depending on the circumstances.

The agreed text on agency workers will enable us to implement the recent CBI-TUC agreement in full, setting a 12-week qualifying period for equal treatment and addressing a number of subsidiary issues as set out in that agreement.

The Council adopted conclusions on enhanced administrative co-operation on the posting of workers for the provisions of services.

Political agreement was reached on a Council decision on the 2008-10 employment guidelines. The presidency and Commission emphasised the primary importance of their implementation and the Chairman of the Employment Committee presented an opinion from the Committee on youth unemployment, which he hoped would be helpful to the Council as the Lisbon deadlines approach.

A partial general approach was agreed by the Council on a chapter covering financial provisions of the implementing regulation for social security co-ordination regulation 883/04, and additionally, the Council also agreed a general approach on some outstanding annexes for regulation 883/04.

Council conclusions were adopted on skills for young people. The UK stated our commitment to increasing skills for all, including young people and disadvantaged groups, by 2020. This was essential in the face of globalisation and there is a useful role for collaboration at European level on analysis and policy responses. The European skills review would also be invaluable in this respect.

The Council also adopted three sets of conclusions as part of the review of implementation of the Beijing platform for action on gender equality. The three areas covered were the elimination of gender stereotypes; women in political decision making; and indicators on the girl child.

Under ‘any other business’, the presidency reported that progress has been made on the worker mobility directive on supplementary pensions, but there were still some outstanding issues to be resolved. They also gave a report on events that had been organised by Slovenia during their time as presidency.

The chair of the Social Protection Committee gave an update on social services of general interest. The Committee will report to the Council again in December.

Several newer member states tabled a declaration on the draft decision establishing a year against poverty and exclusion in 2010. Whilst they were content for agreement to be reached at first reading with the European
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Parliament, they pressed for a Community financial contribution for projects of greater than 50 per cent. to be considered in future programmes; however, the Commission defended the current 50 per cent. approach.

Reports were also received from the Commission on the activities of the expert group on demographic issues and on policies and instruments to improve inclusion of Roma across the Union.

France outlined its priorities on employment and social policy for their forthcoming presidency starting
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in July. The emphasis would be on legislation, including proposals expected before the end of the year on a revision of the 1994 European Works Councils Directive; a new anti-discrimination directive; and a package of measures on work-life balance. France also expects to deal with the European Parliament opinions on the agency workers and working time directive. Their main non-legislative priority would be to debate the EU’s renewed social agenda, starting at the July informal meeting of Ministers.


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