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Written Ministerial Statements

Thursday 9 October 2008

Communities and Local Government

Leasehold Advisory Service

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Mr. Iain Wright): I have today placed in the Library of the House a copy of the annual report and accounts of the Leasehold Advisory Service (LEASE) for the financial year 2007-08.

LEASE is an executive non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Communities and Local Government to provide advice, information and other services to the public and others in relation to residential leasehold and commonhold law.

The report sets out its main activities and performance during the year, a summary of its forward plans, details of the financial status of the service, along with statistics on the number of enquiries it has dealt with over the last twelve months.

It shows the significant amount of enquiries that the service has dealt with over the last twelve months—over 30,000—as part of its work, the growing use of its mediation scheme, and gives an indication of the valued role it plays in the leasehold sector in providing advice to those who require information about their rights.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Child Sexual Abuse Victims (Pitcairn)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Gillian Merron): I would like to inform Parliament that we have established today a mechanism to compensate the victims of past child sex abuse on Pitcairn identified during Operation Unique who co-operated with the authorities in bringing the assailants to justice.

Details of the scheme have been published on the island and the Government of Pitcairn's website (www.pitcairn.pn). Applications will be accepted from people who believe they may be eligible until 31 March 2009.

The Deputy Governor of Pitcairn is working closely with the UK Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority who will advise her on the levels of compensation to award linked to the amounts awarded in the UK.

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Leader of the House

Named Day Parliamentary Questions (September 2008)

The Leader of the House of Commons (Ms Harriet Harman): A total of 807 named day parliamentary questions were asked of departments on the three specified tabling days during September 2008. Of these, 57 per cent. were answered on the due date, a 2 per cent. fall in performance compared with the previous September. Ministers endeavour to answer questions promptly wherever possible. A total of 82 per cent. of questions had been answered substantively by the end of September 2008.

MPs' Allowances (Audit and Assurance)

The Leader of the House of Commons (Ms Harriet Harman): Following debates in July, I published a consultation document, “Audit and Assurance of MPs’ Allowances” (Cm 7460) on 5 August 2008. It outlines proposals for further action to improve the financial control and audit of the system of allowances claimed by MPs. I had requested that MPs submit their responses by Monday 29 September 2008, but to give more opportunity for MPs to respond I would like to extend the period until Friday 31 October 2008. Copies of the document are available at www.commonsleader.gov.uk.

Parliamentary Questions Rota

The Leader of the House of Commons (Ms Harriet Harman): I am pleased to announce the new “Rota for Oral Parliamentary Questions” has been published today.

Copies are available to Members from the Vote Office.


Stansted Airport (Planning Appeal)

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and I have decided to grant planning permission to change two planning conditions attached to the Stansted airport 2003 permission.

This relates to an appeal by BAA plc and Stansted Airport Ltd following the refusal of planning permission by Uttlesford district council in November 2006.

The decision allows for an increase in the number of flights to and from the airport in a year from 241,000 to 264,000 air traffic movements and an increase in the maximum number of passengers using the airport from 25 million to 35 million per annum.

The reasons are set out in the Secretaries of State’s decision letter, copies of which have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses, together with the planning inspector’s report.

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Work and Pensions

Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Kitty Ussher): The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council was held on 2 October 2008 in Luxembourg. The UK was represented by the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Plaskitt), and the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-East (Mr. McFadden), who has responsibility for employment relations and postal affairs.

There was a policy debate on the Commission’s proposal for a directive banning discrimination in the access to goods and services on grounds of religion, belief, disability, age or sexual orientation. James Plaskitt said that the UK strongly supports the aims of this directive, believing that a new directive could contribute to a fairer and therefore stronger Europe, and highlighting that the UK already had comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation in place. All member states said that a number of issues required further discussion and the presidency concluded that there was a general consensus to commence discussions of the detail.

The Council received a report from the presidency on the progress that had been made on the European Works Councils directive since July, when the Commission
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had first proposed to amend it. Agreement by the EU social partners on a version of the Commission’s proposal provided a basis for agreement in the Council and prospects for an early agreement look favourable.

An interim report from the Flexicurity Mission on best practice in balancing increased labour market participation with worker protection was outlined by the Commission. The presidency concluded that there were useful common principles but tailored solutions were needed. The Czechs said this would be a priority for their presidency, with the focus on lifelong learning and social protection. The final Flexicurity Mission report will be presented to Council in December.

A partial general approach was agreed by the Council on two chapters of the implementing regulation for social security co-ordination 883/04 covering benefits for work injuries and illnesses and death, and administrative provisions.

The Council also adopted an agreement establishing a European Year for Combating Poverty in 2010.

Under Any Other Business, the Commission reported on progress with an electronic data exchange system to help administer the social security co-ordination Regulation and on a recent summit on the Roma. The presidency also reported on the Equal Opportunities Summit held in Paris in September and on the good progress that has been made with the migration directives on entry for skilled workers and sanctions against illegal employment.

The presidency outlined its plans for a Tripartite Social Summit before the next European Council, the theme of which would be the impact of climate change on employment and social cohesion.

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