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The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Mr. David Hanson): The Government are committed to ensuring taxpayers receive the best possible value for money from the record investment made in probation in recent years.
I announced on 9 April 2008 the consultation on a best value regime for probation services and I am pleased to announce to the House the outcome of that consultation. I propose, following the consultation, to introduce a new best value framework as signalled during the passage of the Offender Management Bill last year.
The National Offender Management Service Agency will require local probation boards and trusts to undertake a rolling programme of best value reviews. The proposed framework will apply to probation boards and trusts with the exception of areas reserved to probation trusts in the Offender Management Act 2007. It will enable boards and trusts to demonstrate, in a transparent way, the value for money of their services, and to drive improvements in the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of their service delivery. Having considered the options, I have decided that best value will proceed on the basis of benchmarking of selected areas of work, assessment
of probation performance against that benchmark, and greater competition for all sectors for those who do not meet the required standard through improvements to existing services.
I intend to announce shortly the first areas of work for which best value will apply. The Government are currently developing a regulatory framework to ensure that competition is conducted in a fair and transparent way, allowing all sectors to compete. Discussions are currently ongoing with interested parties and will be published in due course.
Copies of the Best Value consultation response document will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses. Copies will also be available in the Vote Office and Printed Paper Office and on the internet at http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/cp0608.htm
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Mr. Michael Wills): The Government are today publishing a consultation paper which seeks views on whether candidates addresses should continue to be disclosed automatically during UK parliamentary elections.
The proposal has been made following the removal of MPs and peers from certain provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. It is argued that such public figures and their families face more than ordinary risks to their safety, security and peace of mind and that special considerations therefore apply to them.
Others argue that the electoral process should be open and transparent and that those putting themselves forward for public office in this way should be prepared to face those risks in the interests of accountability and the free expression of democracy.
This paper seeks to examine those arguments in more depth, as well as the practical issues which may arise from any proposed change and the implications for the electorate, for the electoral process, for candidates and for administrators.
The Government have open minds on this issue and the purpose of this consultation is to seek views on the proposal that the full home addresses of candidates should no longer appear on ballot papers, nomination papers and other electoral documents open to public inspection at UK parliamentary elections.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Jim Fitzpatrick): I have today published a consultation paper seeking views on a proposal to introduce a new practical motorcycling test and associated fees.
Module 1a specified manoeuvres test.
Module 2a road riding test.
The documents are also available from the DSA websitewww.dsa.gov.uk;or by telephone on 0115 936 6092.
The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon): I am today publishing the Government Response to the King Review of Low-Carbon Cars. Copies of the report will be available in the Libraries of both Houses and a further copy of the report will be available on the Department for Transport website at www.dft.gov.uk
The Government warmly welcome Professor King's wide-ranging and comprehensive report, published in two parts in October 2007 and March 2008, which set out the technology options likely to contribute to decarbonising road transport. Professor King made a number of policy recommendations ensuring that Government, industry and research communities all contribute to reducing carbon emissions from cars. The response document describes how Government are taking forward Professor Kings recommendations as part of our wider mission to tackle the climate change impacts of the transport sector.
Professor Kings recommendations have a particular emphasis on technology and removing barriers to behavioural change. There are various recommendations aimed at driving technology change through EU legislation and promoting the research, development or deployment of relevant technologies to reduce the impacts of vehicles throughout their life-cycle. We are working on all these areas with a view to seeing a new car fleet average of 100gCO2/km by 2020a target that will require deployment of a range of technologies such as all-electric and plug-in hybrid cars that hold the promise of ultra-low carbon private transport.
We intend to seize the opportunities a low-carbon transport sector represents, thereby helping to reduce the UKs emissions from domestic sources and contributing to meeting our greenhouse gas targets as set out in the Climate Change Bill 2008.
The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon):
Sir Joseph Pillings report of his independent strategic review of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) was published by the then Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West (Ruth Kelly) on 17 July. My right hon. Friend accepted Sir Josephs
recommendations in relation to the CAAs corporate governance and promised a further statement in the autumn. I should like to add my thanks to Sir Joseph for his important contribution to ensuring that the CAA will be as effective a regulator in the future as it has been in the past.
I accept that the CAAs current status as a public corporation should be retained. As Sir Joseph recommended, the department will work with the CAA to develop amendments to bring the legislative framework up to date, addressing specific issues identified in the report. As Sir Joseph noted, some of his recommendations were relevant to the separate review of airport economic regulation which my predecessor announced in April and to improving the passenger experience, such as his recommendation for a statutory Air Transport Users Council (AUC). He was also right to ask us to consider whether the UKs aviation regulator should have a general environmental duty and in what context. We are looking sympathetically at these connected issues, which would require legislation and prior consultation, and will make a further announcement in the early part of next year.
Otherwise, I am pleased to be able to announce that I have accepted in broad principle Sir Josephs recommendations, as has the CAA board. Implementation of the reports many recommendations, and corresponding revisions to the sponsorship statement which defines our relationship, are in hand with two exceptions. We are deferring a decision on changing the route of appeal for fitness of character decisions until the general regulatory chamber and the supporting first tier tribunals are fully established. Also, in the financial downturn which has developed since Sir Joseph Pilling reported, I have agreed with the CAA that it is not a priority to recruit additional international staff or rent separate premises for the AUC although the CAA will endeavour to meet the principle of these recommendations in other ways.
I am also pleased to say that the process of governance change has begun. We are currently seeking a new part-time non-executive Chair for the CAA and this will be followed by the recruitment of a chief executive for the CAA, on the basis envisaged by Sir Joseph Pilling.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Jonathan Shaw): In preparing the disability discrimination provisions for inclusion in the proposed Equality Bill, the Government have been considering the implications of both the House of Lords judgment of 25 June 2008 on the case of the London borough of Lewisham v Malcolm, and the European Commissions proposals to introduce a new directive that will provide protection against discrimination based on disability, religion or belief, sexual orientation and age, in areas beyond employment.
We have considered how the present Disability Discrimination Act 1995 now operates in respect of discrimination that arises for a reason related to the individuals disability. We have concluded that it would be appropriate for the disability provisions in the Equality
Bill to take a different approach to this type of discrimination from that currently taken in the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. We intend instead to use the concept of indirect discrimination. We consider that this will provide improved protection for disabled people in the Equality Bill by ensuring that the legislation re-establishes an appropriate balance between the rights of disabled people and the interest of duty holders. It will also improve consistency within the Bill between the disability provisions and the provisions for people who have the other protected characteristics, and ensure compliance with the anticipated requirements of European anti-discrimination legislation.
Preparing for the Bill is a substantial undertaking as it will bring together the wide range of equality legislation. In order to allow for analysis of the consultation responses, and to ensure that decisions based on the analysis can inform the provisions in the Bill, it is necessary to restrict the consultation period to six weeks. However, to ensure that we obtain an appropriately broad range of input to the consultation, the written consultation is being supplemented by a range of discussions with key stakeholders including representatives from the fields of disability, equality, business, advice, and the voluntary sector.
The consultation document is being sent to around 200 organisations and will be available on the website of the Office for Disability Issues at: http://www.officefordisability.gov.uk/indirectdiscrimination and on my Departments website at: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/consultations/2008. Copies will be placed in the House Library.
During the passage of the Pensions Bill through both Houses, there has been much debate on the Governments view on responsible investment and disinvestment by pension schemes. This is clearly an issue of some importanceparticularly to trusteesand is one which is continually developing as the body of case law on responsible investment evolves.
It would be inappropriate for the Government to comment on the future development of the existing principles contained in case law, as the interpretation of case law is of course a matter for the courts and not for Ministers.
However, I would like to put on record the Governments view of the law. There is no reason in law why, in making investment decisions, trustees cannot consider social, ethical and environmental considerations, including sustainability, in addition to their usual criteria of financial returns, security and diversification.
It follows from this that it may be appropriate for trustees to engage in these considerations with companies in which they invest. This may include disinvesting from such companies if, acting in accordance with their fiduciary duties and the objects of their trust, they consider that this is right and in the best interests of their members.