The Minister for Employment Relations and Postal Affairs (Mr. Pat McFadden): The Government ran the Icelandic Water trawlermen scheme between 2000 and 2002. This scheme made compensation payments to trawlermen that lost their livelihoods following the cod wars in the 1970s. The parliamentary ombudsman found last year that some claimants under the scheme had received unfairly low payments, because of the rules on breaks in service, and recommended that my Department review the eligibility criteria and scheme rules, to ensure they were consistent with the policy intention underlying the scheme.
I have concluded that we should run a new trawlermen scheme and that additional payments should be calculated on the basis of aggregate service on vessels that fished in Icelandic waters. This means that anyone with long service on Icelandic vessels that received significantly reduced payments under the previous scheme (because of a break in their service) should receive an additional payment. This will substantially reduce the impact of any gaps in service and better align the rules with the intention of the scheme.
We will shortly be consulting on the details of the new scheme. We also propose thatthe qualifying test should be amended to require successful claimants to have at least two years aggregate service on Icelandic vessels during the period of the cod wars; interest should be added to the additional payments; consolatory payments of £200 should be made to successful claimants under the new scheme; the Thessalonian should be added to the list of Icelandic vessels for the new scheme; and the new scheme should be limited to existing claims only.
I expect the new scheme to be formally launched by the middle of next year, after we have consulted on the details and considered the views received. Around 1,000 trawlermen should receive additional payments under these arrangements, and the total cost of the new scheme should be less than £10 million.
The Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Ed Balls):
The Government publishes today the Childrens Plan one year on progress report, setting
out progress made since the launch of the Childrens Plan a year ago. It celebrates the contribution made by those working with children and young people over the past year, takes stock of the challenges ahead and sets out next steps to achieve our ambitions for children and young people.
The Children and Young Peoples Workforce Strategy, also published today, describes the way the Government will work with partners to develop and support everyone who works with children and young people and to improve quality and capacity across the workforce. It sets out the Governments priorities for the development of individual sectors of the workforce and for reforms which need to influence everyone who works with children, young people and their families.
Copies of these documents are available in the Libraries of both Houses and available electronically at: www.dcsf.gov.uk/oneyearon
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Mr. Sadiq Khan): I would like to inform the House that further investigations have revealed that the answers given to questions 164956 and 200017 in the 2007-08 Session were incomplete. Question 164956 was tabled by the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Hoban) and answered by my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Dhanda) on 29 November 2007 (Official Report, column 681W). Question 200017 was tabled by the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May), and answered by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on 2 June 2008 (Official Report, columns 538-539W). A correction to question 200017 was issued by my right hon. Friend on 9 July 2008 (Official Report, columns 9-10MC).
Since 27 June,
(a) there are ongoing surveys and research on home buying reform. Work undertaken to date by GfK cost £40,000 plus VAT.
(b) the human resources directorate conducted the second of four quarterly staff surveys. This was undertaken by Ipsos Mori at a cost of £37,000 plus VAT and measured staff opinions on a range of internal management issues.
(c) research into the impact of the firefighter awareness campaign, conducted by GfK NOP, at £20,463 plus VAT.
(d) smoke alarm maintenance creative development research, conducted by COI, at £23,800 plus VAT.
(e) feasibility study for a community attitudes survey, conducted by GfK NOP, at £65,000 plus VAT. A summary is at:
In addition, we conducted a pilot employee engagement survey of 400 staff at a cost of £11,000 including VAT. This was undertaken by Ipsos Mori and will help the Department to assess the level of employee engagement and identify the key drivers which would increase engagement levels.
I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Hoban), (Official Report, 29 November 2007, column 681W).
Between then and the end of the financial year, the Department has undertaken the following work from polling companies:
The Drivers of Black and Asian Peoples Perceptions of Racial Discrimination by Public Services: A qualitative study (www.communities.gov.uk/documents/communities/pdf/654397.pdf)
Connect to Your Council Takeup CampaignCampaign Review and Recommendations for Future Local Authority Campaigns (www.communities.gov.uk/documents/localgovernment/pdf/Connect_your_council.pdf)
Fire and Rescue Service: The Retained Duty System: a survey of local employers (www.communities.gov.uk/documents/fire/pdf/rdssurvey.pdf)
A survey of current and ex-firefighters in England (www.communities.gov.uk/publications/fire/firefightersurvey2008)
Housing Choices and Aspirations of Older People: Research from the New Horizons Programme (www.communities.gov.uk/documents/housing/pdf/newhorizonsresearch.pdf)
The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. John Hutton):
Since May 2008 the Ministry of Defence has been examining its equipment programme. The aims of the examination were to adapt to the rising cost of high-end defence equipment and to provide more support for current operations. The key conclusions I am announcing
today help us meet these objectives; other aspects will be taken forward through our regular planning round, which will conclude next March.
The work to date will bring the defence equipment programme more closely into balance. Inevitably this has required a reprioritisation of investment to ensure that we deliver those capabilities of the highest immediate urgency, while continuing to invest in capabilities needed to respond to future threats. We remain committed to doing more for our people, here and on the front lineimproving their support and welfare, pay, medical care, rehabilitation services and accommodation.
Support to current operations remains our highest priority. Among the top priorities of our operational commanders are the provision of the right mix of protected patrol vehicles and additional helicopter capability. The recent announcement of nearly 700 more protected patrol vehicles for Afghanistan, at a cost of over £700 million, is evidence of our commitment to meet their requirements. In addition to our core budget, the Government will continue to fund the net additional costs of operations from the Treasury reserve. Since 2001 we have received nearly £10 billion, over and above the core defence budget.
As well as the protected mobility package, we have agreed with the Treasury a budget of a further £635 million in 2009-10 for other urgent operational requirements, with any expenditure over and above that being met initially by the reserve, but repaid by the defence budget after two years.
In May 2008 we announced the provisional selection of Piranha V, offered by General Dynamics (UK) Ltd, as the preferred design for the FRES utility vehicle. Following a period of intensive negotiations with General Dynamics to address a number of commercial issues, it became clear to both parties that it would not be possible to reach agreement on the commercial conditions required to enable further progress on the basis of the current procurement strategy. I have therefore decided that we should withdraw General Dynamics (UK)s provisional preferred bidder status.
Our examination of the equipment programme has, separately, considered the balance of investment and priority in the armys armoured vehicle programme. We have concluded that, in the context of current operations, and bearing in mind the considerable recent investment in protected mobility, the highest priority should now be accorded to delivering the warrior capability sustainment programme and the FRES scout vehicle as quickly as possible. Against that background, we have decided to restructure the FRES programme, giving priority to FRES scout over the FRES utility vehicle. Whilst this will mean a delay to the programme, we recognise the importance of the utility vehicle and are now looking at the best way to take this procurement forward. General Dynamics (UK) will have an opportunity to compete in any future utility vehicle competition.
We have increased the number of helicopter airframes and hours available to our commanders in Afghanistan by around 60 per cent. over the past two years, and will make a further significant increase in helicopter capacity in Afghanistan over the next two years.
In addition to our planned battlefield helicopter procurements, we will be spending £70 million from the reserve to upgrade 12 Lynx Mark 9 helicopters with new engines, with the first aircraft available by the end of 2009. This will give commanders more helicopters able to operate effectively all year round in the hot and high altitude in Afghanistan, freeing up other aircraft for other tasks. Taken with the Chinook Mark 3 reversion, the additional planned Apache capability and the Merlins that we plan to move to Afghanistan once they have completed their mission in Iraq, this will deliver a significant increase in helicopter capability available to military commanders.
We have concluded that there is scope for bringing more closely into line the introduction of the joint combat aircraft and the aircraft carrier. This is likely to mean delaying the in service date of the new carriers by one to two years. We are in close consultation with the Aircraft Carrier Alliance on how this might best be done. Construction is already under way and will continue, the programme will still provide stability for the core shipyard workforce, including 10,000 UK jobs.
We have also reviewed all the components of the MARS fleet auxiliary programme, and have concluded that there is scope for considering alternative approaches to its procurement which is likely to involve the deferral of the fleet tanker element.
I have also instituted a review, to be led by Bernard Gray, to examine progress with implementing reforms through the MODs acquisition change programme and make any further recommendations to secure better value for money in the delivery of major acquisition programmes.
Any further significant changes to the equipment programme will be announced following the conclusion of the MODs current planning round in March. While that work continues, I intend to control new commitments carefully to ensure we do not restrict our flexibility unnecessarily, though this will not be allowed to hold up support to current operations or our other highest priorities.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Kevan Jones): The new rates of war pensions and allowances proposed from April 2009 are set out in the table below. The annual uprating of war pensions and allowances for 2009 will take place from the week beginning 6 April.
|War Pensions Rates|
|(Weekly rates unless otherwise shown)||Rates||Rates|
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