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Communities and Local Government

Fire Safety (Sub-surface Railway Stations)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Mr. Sadiq Khan): During 2004-05, the ninth report of the Select Committee on Regulatory Reform considered that the draft Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order should be amended to allow the Fire Precautions (Sub-surface Railway Stations) Regulations 1989 to remain in force. The 1989 regulations
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were brought into force as a result of the Fennell report into the tragic King’s Cross underground fire in 1987. These apply in four fire and rescue authority areas: London, Merseyside, Tyne and Wear and West Midlands. The then Office of the Deputy Prime Minister agreed to retain these regulations until it published detailed guidance on the application of the order “to ensure public certainty and confidence”.

The Department for Communities and Local Government published guidance for the transport premises in 2007. Furthermore, the Department addressed the Committee’s concerns that the risk-assessment based regime provided under the order might not be suitable for the particular circumstances of sub-surface railway stations by conducting a review of the 1989 regulations to take account of the order. The purpose of the review was to ensure that the same level of fire safety was maintained. The Department undertook this in partnership with trade union representatives, train operators and enforcing authorities and determined that a number of provisions in the 1989 regulations were adequately covered by the order but that some were not. On the basis of this work, the Department carried out a full public consultation on the proposed revised regulations for fire safety on sub-surface railway stations. The Government response was published in December 2008 and confirmed that the 1989 regulations would be revoked and remade to take account of the order. We have taken this opportunity to modernise and simplify the drafting of the regulations where appropriate, without altering the level of fire safety at sub-surface railway stations.

In response to the Select Committee’s particular concern about the absence of guidance specific to sub-surface railway stations issued by the Secretary of State, my Department has now published detailed guidance to accompany the Fire Precautions (Sub-surface Railway Stations) (England) Regulations 2009 which are laid today. The guidance has been written by technical experts and was overseen by a working group drawn from key stakeholder groups. The partnership was further extended by providing the wider group of stakeholders a chance to peer review the guidance in draft. To assist those affected by the change in the regulations, there will be a six-month transition period until the 2009 regulations come into force on 1 October 2009.

I am placing a copy of the guidance in the Library of the House.


Iraq: Coalition Regional Commands

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. John Hutton): I should like to make a statement on the restructuring of coalition regional commands in southern Iraq.

The House will be aware from my statement of 25 November 2008, Official Report, column 57WS and the Foreign Secretary’s statement of 25 March 2009, Official Report, column 326 that coalition forces providing support to the Iraqi security forces in the area south of Baghdad have to date been organised into two multinational areas: Multi-National Division South-East under UK leadership covering Basra province, and MND Centre under US leadership, covering the other eight Iraqi
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provinces. As indicated in those two statements, in future only a single Multi-National Division headquarters will be required south of Baghdad.

Due to the improved security situation and the continued demonstration by the Iraqi security forces that they are able to deliver security in southern Iraq with only minimal coalition assistance, the anticipated change in coalition command structures has taken place today. MND South-East and MND Centre have been merged to create a new Multi-National Division area, MND South. The headquarters for MND South will be located on the site of the contingency operating base outside Basra, and will provide support to the Iraqi security forces under US leadership across all nine provinces in southern Iraq.

UK forces from 20 Armoured Brigade will complete their remaining military tasks in southern Iraq as part of MND South and then withdraw before the end of July. We have also deployed logistics specialists in order to support the withdrawal. US forces in southern Iraq will continue to focus on their training of the Iraqi police and Department of Border Enforcement and on supporting the overall coalition mission in Iraq, including through the protection of key supply routes.

We are currently discussing with the Government of Iraq the precise scope of the military training that they would like the UK to provide as part of the enduring, broad-based bilateral relationship with Iraq, which the Prime Minister outlined on 18 December 2008, Official Report, columns 1233-35. On current plans, this would see fewer than 400 UK service personnel remaining in Iraq beyond 31 July 2009. Details of the specific military units that will be involved will be made available in due course on the MOD’s website:

Warship Support Modernisation Initiative

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Quentin Davies): Support arrangements at Her Majesty’s naval base (HMNB) Devonport, as with the other two naval bases, are vital in the base’s effective day-to-day running which in turn helps ensure a first-class service is provided to the Royal Navy.

These support arrangements are provided at HMNB Devonport under an incentive-based partnering arrangement —known as the Warship Support Modernisation Initiative (WSMI) agreement—between the MOD and one of its key maritime industrial partners, Babcock. These arrangements, which have been in place since 2002, provide essential engineering, logistics, infrastructure and waterfront services to the operational fleet at HMNB Devonport.

I am pleased to announce to the House today that we have renewed the WSMI agreement with Babcock for the provision of these services at HMNB Devonport until 2013. Worth approximately £559 million, this new four-year contract builds on the proven value for money solution and secures hundreds of jobs in the Devonport and wider Plymouth area. The duration of this renewed contract brings the WSMI arrangements at Devonport in to line with those at the other two naval bases. WSMI services are currently provided at HMNB Clyde by Babcock and at HMNB Portsmouth by BVT Surface Fleet Limited; both arrangements are scheduled to expire in 2013.

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Armed Forces' Pay Review Body

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. John Hutton): The 2009 report of the Armed Forces’ Pay Review Body (AFPRB) has now been published. I wish to express my thanks to the chairman and members of the review body for their report. I am pleased to confirm that the AFPRB’s recommendations are to be accepted in full, with implementation effective from 1 April 2009.

In line with the AFPRB recommendations, the basic military salary for officers and all other ranks will increase by 2.8 per cent. The rates of specialist pay (including flying pay, submarine pay and diving pay) will also increase by 2.8 per cent. The Government have also accepted the AFPRB recommendations on a number of targeted financial measures, including a minimum pay increase on promotion to the rank of Sergeant and Petty Officer of 5 per cent. and a reduction in the qualifying period between each level of longer separation allowance. The AFPRB, meanwhile, has endorsed the improved commitment bonus arrangements.

Copies of the Armed Forces’ Pay Review Body report are available in the Vote Office and the Library of the House.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

South Downs National Park

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Hilary Benn): I am pleased to announce my decision on the establishment of the South Downs national park.

I have carefully considered both of the inspector’s reports on the public inquiries into the South Downs National Park (Designation) Order 2002, as varied, made by the Countryside Agency under the provisions of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. In line with the inspector’s recommendations, I have decided that the area now proposed for designation meets the criteria for a national park, subject to modifications, and should be managed by a National Park Authority to be established under the provisions of the Environment Act 1995. I therefore intend to confirm the designation order, with modifications, so creating the South Downs national park.

The inspector recommended the deletion of some areas within Natural England’s proposed designation, and recommended adding others. Full details of my intended boundary, subject only to the new additions referred to below, will be released in my decision letter today, a copy of which, together with an illustrative map, will appear on my Department’s website. Copies of the inspector’s latest report, addendum, illustrative map and my decision letter will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

There are five “new” additional areas recommended by the inspector, which were not consulted upon between the two inquiries, as well as one other “new” additional area which I believe warrants further consideration/inclusion. Depending on the outcome of these there may be one further deletion.

Under the provisions of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, details of the proposed new additions to the designation order boundary
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will be made available to the public to enable any objections, representations and comments to be made. This period will last for 12 weeks. Details of where and when details of the proposed additions can be viewed, and the time limits for the receipt of objections, representations and comments, will be advertised shortly in the national and local press. I will consider all duly made objections, representations and comments and if necessary call a public inquiry or a hearing to consider them. When the boundary is finalised, I will announce the confirmation of the designation order with its final modifications as well as the date for the creation of the South Downs national park.

When I confirm the designation order, I intend also to confirm the orders made by the Countryside Agency to revoke both the East Hampshire area of outstanding natural beauty and the Sussex Downs area of outstanding natural beauty, to coincide with the national park coming into being. The South Downs national park as now indicated would cover over 99 per cent. of the land currently designated as areas of outstanding natural beauty and it would be inappropriate to have concurrent national landscape designations.

Following the conclusion of the further steps required to confirm the designation order, I propose to bring forward an order under the provisions of the Environment Act 1995 to create a national park authority. I expect the new authority to be established from April 2010 and to take on its full range of statutory powers and functions from 1 April 2011.

Departmental Expenditure Limits

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Hilary Benn): I wish to announce that for 2008-09 DEFRA will switch £20 million available near cash resource DEL budget to cover a forecast deficit against its capital DEL control total, in accordance with HM Treasury’s consolidated budgetary guidance. Although the financial out-turn for the year is not final, the current assessment of the required switch is £20 million. The movement in spend from near cash resource DEL to capital DEL is in respect of flood defences where the exact nature and classification of the expenditure is determined by the Environment Agency, as they undertake the work.

ChangeNew DEL£000


Resource DEL





of which:

Administration budget(1)



Near-cash in RDEL





Capital DEL (2)





Less Depreciation (3)








(1) The total of ‘Administration budget’ and ‘Near-cash in Resource DEL’ figures may well be greater than total resource DEL, due to the definitions overlapping.
(2) Capital DEL includes items treated as resource in estimates and accounts but which are treated as capital DEL in budgets.
(3) Depreciation, which forms part of resource DEL, is excluded from total DEL since capital DEL includes capital spending and to include depreciation of those assets would lead to double counting.

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NHS Foundation Trusts

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): The Chairman of Monitor (the statutory name of which is the Independent Regulator of NHS foundation trusts) has announced that, in accordance with section 35 of the National Health Service Act 2006, Monitor has decided to authorise the following NHS trusts as NHS foundation trusts from 1 April;

Monitor’s announcement brings the total number of NHS foundation trusts operating in England to 117. A copy of Monitor’s press notice has been placed in the library.

The Government remain committed to offering all NHS acute and mental health trusts the opportunity to attain the NHS foundation trust standard as soon as practicable. Monitor is authorising NHS foundation trusts on a monthly basis, and further groups of authorisations are set to follow.

Review Body on Doctors' and Dentists' Remuneration

The Secretary of State for Health (Alan Johnson): I am responding on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to the 38th Report of the Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration (DDRB), Cm 7579, which has been laid before Parliament today. Copies of the report are available in the Vote Office and the Library of the House. I am grateful to the chair and members of the Review Body for their hard work.

The DDRB has recommended that the national salary scales for all salaried doctors and dentists, and the top and bottom of the salary range for salaried general medical practitioners, should be increased by 1.5 per cent. for 2009-10. For independent contractor general dental practitioners (GDPs), the DDRB has recommended a 0.21 per cent. increase in contract values which the DDRB intend to result in an increase in GDPs’ net income of 1.5 per cent. With regard to independent contractor general medical practitioners (GMPs), DDRB have recommended an increase in contractual payments to practices of 2.29 per cent. designed to result in an increase of 1.5 per cent. in GMPs’ average net income.

The DDRB’s pay recommendations have been accepted in full by the Government.

Innovation, Universities and Skills

Skills Funding (Chief Executive)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills (Mr. Siôn Simon): The Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learners (ASCL) Bill will legislate for the creation of a new post of Chief Executive of Skills Funding, to take over most of the post 19 education and training functions of the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), which will be dissolved. The chief executive will lead a new Skills Funding Agency, and will be responsible for some £5 billion a year of public funding. This change will take effect from April 2010, subject to the successful passage of the Bill.

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The move to the new arrangements will be complex, and it is essential to minimise the potential for any risk to public funds or disruption in education and training delivery. Early recruitment of a chief executive will reduce the set up cost for the Skills Funding Agency. It will also facilitate a successful move to the new arrangements. It is for these reasons that the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills is seeking a contingency fund advance of £77,000 to begin the chief executive recruitment process so the successful candidate can take up their position as early in the transition year (2009-10) as possible.

Parliamentary approval for additional resources of £175,000 for this new service will be sought in the main estimate for 2009-10 for the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. Pending that approval, urgent expenditure estimated at £77,000 will be met by repayable cash advances from the contingency fund.

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