The Minister for Energy (Malcolm Wicks): I represented the UK at the informal Energy Council that took place in Paris on 4 to 5 July. This was held back to back with an informal Environment Council, reflecting the priority the French are giving to the climate change and energy package during their presidency. Both meetings were chaired by Jean-Louis Borloo, French Minister for the Environment and Energy. The European Parliament rapporteurs for the various elements of the package were also present.
The main focus of discussion was the renewables directive, including specific debates on biofuels and the flexibilities required for the EU to achieve the 20 per cent. renewable energy target in a cost-effective way. National experiences were also exchanged on energy efficiency and Ministers received a presentation on energy security by Claude Mandil, former head of the IEA, commissioned by the French to produce a report to inform the forthcoming EU strategic energy review.
During the debate on renewables, there was a large degree of consensus on the importance of meeting the targets cost-effectively. There was also widespread recognition that this can only be achieved with some level of exchange between member states allowing countries with potentially expensive domestic renewables resource to buy them more cheaply elsewhere in the EU. There was general agreement among ministers that a UK/Germany/Poland proposal for a system of exchange between member states represented a promising way forward.
A short debate on biofuels followed. I used the opportunity to highlight the key findings of the Gallagher review. There was a discussion on the perceived link between the increased use of biofuels and food prices. It was emphasised that the 10 per cent. objective in the draft directive is for the use of renewable energy in transport, and not a 10 per cent. share of biofuel in transport fuel by 2020; so electric vehicles could also play a part in achieving this target. Several member states agreed that the proposed sustainability regime proposed for biofuels should be more demanding in order to ensure genuine sustainability of biofuels and highlighted the importance of the availability of second generation biofuels in this regard.
Earlier we had a debate on energy efficiency with representatives of NGOs, business and MEPs. There were several presentations on what individual member states were doing domestically (I spoke about the UKs carbon reduction commitment scheme), and a general agreement that more effort had to be put into energy efficiency both at national and EU level.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (Mr. Gareth Thomas): I answered the hon. Member for Farehams parliamentary question on 12 June 2008 (Official Report, column 414W) on BERR departmental training.
We said that the staff training costs incurred by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reforms Agencies were £1,714,000 in the last 12 months and £8,443,000 for the previous five years. This figure was also quoted in my letter of 12 June 2008, to the hon. Member for Fareham. A copy of this letter was placed in the Libraries of the House.
These costs were taken from the Departments consolidated resource accounts for the years in question, which for 2007-08 were in draft at the time of my reply. Furthermore, the consolidated resource accounts do not include the expenditure of Companies House, whose accounts are published separately. Using updated figures, staff training costs for the Departments agencies were £1,999,000 for 2007-08, and £8,774,000 for the previous five years.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Kevin Brennan): I am pleased to announce that the School Food Trust, in partnership with LACA (Local Authority Caterers Association) has released provisional findings from the third annual survey of take up of school meals, reporting on the 2007-08 financial year.
These figures illustrate that the number of primary school children eating school meals rose by roughly 88,000 from 2006-07 to 2007-08. The number of secondary school pupils eating school meals fell by roughly 38,000 over the same period. This is partly explained by a 2 per cent. drop in numbers of pupils on roll in secondary schools.
Average meal price in primary schools in 2007-08 was £1.66, compared to £1.63 reported for 2006-07, an increase of 1.8 per cent. Average ingredient costs were 61 pence per meal, 7 per cent. higher than in 2006-07 (57 pence). Average labour costs were 1.08 per meal, very similar to the 1.09 reported for 2006-07.
In secondary schools, the average meal price is based on the value of a free school meal, which in 2007-08 was £1.78, compared to £1.72 reported for 2006-07, an increase of 3 per cent. Average ingredient and labour costs as a percentage of total service expenditure were 36.5 per cent. and 48,6 per cent. respectively.
Marketing of school meals to pupils (79%, 70%)
Schools having food policies (74%, 61%)
Marketing of school meals to parents (73%, 48%)
Provision of more healthy options (59%, 34%)
Improvement in dining facilities (57%, 48%)
In addition, in relation to secondary school catering provision, 54 per cent. of LAs said that reorganization of arrangements for meals was important (that is, shorter queues, changes in timetable), as was the introduction of a stay-on-site policy (56%).
Provision of more healthy options resulting in more children bringing packed lunches (74%, 80%)
Parents providing packed lunches (64%, 24%)
Increases in the price of a school meal due to inflation (56%, 54%)
Increases in the price of a school meal due to use of better quality ingredients (55%, 53%)
Number of pupils buying school meals (47%, 65%)
In addition, in secondary schools, the main reason for a decline in take up was pupils buying meals elsewhere in response to the provision of more healthy options (91%). Shorter lunch hours were also seen as a deterrent (68%), as was organization of meal provision (62%).
As part of our drive to improve school lunch provision, we announced in 2006 a new specific capital fund of £150 million in this spending review for authorities with the greatest need to build new kitchens in schools where currently there are none. Fifteen authorities submitted bids totalling some £46.9 million and I am now pleased to announce that all of those bids have been successful. This means that schools in West Sussex, Swindon, North East Lincolnshire, Lincolnshire, North Somerset, Dorset, Wigan, Harrow, Hillingdon, Plymouth, Buckinghamshire, Bournemouth, Northamptonshire, Kingston-upon-Thames, and Worcestershire will have new school kitchens over the next three years.
I am also pleased to announce that the remainder of this £150 million specific fund for school kitchens will be made available to all local authorities who submit plans to increase school lunch take-up by building or improving school kitchens and upgrading dining facilities and systems. This means that all authorities and schools will have the opportunity to improve school lunches and increase take-up through better preparation facilities and more attractive dining areas.
Finally, we have decided to provide the School Food Trust with an extra £6 million over the next three years to promote healthy food to young people and raise take up. This is on top of the £21 million funding settlement the School Food Trust received in March.
The School Food Trust carries out a survey in April of each year to estimate the take up of school meals nationally. The trust asks the catering officers in 150 local authorities (LAs) to provide information on take-up
and highlight the factors that they believe have most influenced the change in take-up in the previous year. This years survey has been conducted in close collaboration with LACA (the Local Authority Caterers Association) and in consultation with other interested stakeholders.
To date, 105 responses have been received from local authorities. The figures quoted above are provisional, based on responses from 70 LAs covering school meal provision in primary schools and responses from 59 LAs covering school meal provision in secondary schools, as clarification of information is ongoing. A full report of the survey results will be published on the trust website in September 2008.
Take up of school meals.
Changes in take up between 2006-07 and 2007-08.
Ingredient and labour costs.
Factors felt to be responsible for changes in demand.
An interim report is available on the trust website at: www.schoolfoodtrust.org.uk
Take up has been calculated using the same method as in previous years.
Primary figures include primary schools and special schools.
Data reported here relate to schools with catering provided by the local authority, either through an in-house catering service or using a LA-contracted private contractor.
The Government announced a five-point plan for school food in September 2006, including a new specific capital fund for authorities with the greatest need to build new kitchens in schools where currently there are none.
West Sussex: £5.744 million
Swindon: £2 million
North East Lincolnshire: £3.424 million
Lincolnshire: £4.416 million
North Somerset: £2.128 million
Dorset: £3.52 million
Wigan: £2 million
Harrow: £5.888 million
Hillingdon: £1.8 million
Plymouth: £1.456 million
Buckinghamshire: £1.384 million
Northamptonshire: £5.5 million
Worcestershire: £6.304 million
The remainder of the £150 million fund will be made available to local authorities who submit plans to increase school lunch take-up by building or improving school kitchens and upgrading dining facilities and systems. Further details will be published in due course.
The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Hazel Blears): I am today publishing a consultation on proposals to improve planning policy statement 6: Planning for Town Centres (PPS6). Copies of the consultation are being placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
Busy town centres with a wide range of shops are vital to communities large and small, rural and urban. For more than a decade, Government planning policy has been designed to ensure that the vitality and viability of town centres is promoted.
Today, there is more retail development in and around our town centres than at any time during the last ten years, but we cannot be complacentparticularly in the current economic climate. Evidence shows that there is scope to refine the policy and make it more effective.
The proposals reinforce the town centre-first approach to ensure that development continues to take place in town centres and promotes their vitality, viability and character. We will retain the sequential test which requires developers to justify why they cannot build in the centre before they seek to build out of town.
The proposals remove the need test for proposals outside town centreswhich has been shown to be a blunt tooland introduce a new and broader impact test to take better account of economic, social and environmental factors.
Alongside these changes, the consultation makes clear that policy will continue to reinforce the principle that development should be accessible by a range of transport modes; that it should promote greater consumer choice and retail diversity; and that it should encourage investment and job creation in disadvantaged areas.
Our amendments do not include any specific policy proposals for taking forward the proposed planning competition test for large grocery stores which was recommended by the Competition Commission in its final report on The Supply of Groceries in the UK market investigation (April 2008). The Government will be responding separately on this shortly.
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