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Written Ministerial Statements

Thursday 25 June 2009


Double Taxation Convention (United Kingdom and Belgium)

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Stephen Timms): A new protocol to the Double Taxation Convention with Belgium was signed on 24 June 2009. The text of the protocol has been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses and made available on HM Revenue and Customs’ website. The text will be scheduled to a draft Order in Council and laid before the House of Commons in due course.

Communities and Local Government

Firebuy Ltd

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Mr. Shahid Malik): I should like to inform the House that, in the light of our review of national procurement in the fire and rescue service (FRS) in England, we propose to make a number of changes affecting Firebuy Ltd, the professional buying organisation for the service.

Firebuy Ltd was established as a non-departmental public body on 30 March 2006 to deliver the 2005-08 national procurement strategy for the FRS. Within the current arrangements, Firebuy has been effective in establishing national fire-specific procurement for vehicles and equipment and has delivered benefits for the service.

There is a continuing need to drive procurement efficiency at a national level in the FRS, particularly in the light of targets for collaborative procurement set by the Government’s operational efficiency programme and we believe that a national procurement body represents the best way to deliver fire-specific collaborative procurement. This will be reflected in the revised national procurement strategy, which we intend to publish in July, taking account of responses to the consultation last year and the recommendations of the operational efficiency programme.

However, going forward there is a need to consider the future role and structure of the body delivering FRS national procurement, particularly given that the Department must also make longer term provision for managing ongoing FiReControl and Firelink contracts. We propose, therefore, that Firebuy’s functions should in future be carried out within a larger organisation, integrating national procurement with the management of the service contracts for the Fire And Resilience programme (Firelink, FiReControl and New Dimension). Firebuy already performs this function in respect of New Dimension. More detailed proposals for in-service management of the Fire and Resilience programme will be set out in a consultation paper, which we will publish shortly.

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I am grateful to the current chair and board of Firebuy for the work they have done and for agreeing to have had their terms of office extended to November 2009 while the review was under way. A new board for the NDPB will be required from that date to reflect the new role of the organisation. Recruitment of the board will commence in the summer of 2009, including representation from the key stakeholders.

Energy and Climate Change

EU Energy Council

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Mr. David Kidney): I am writing to update the House about the recent Energy Council in Luxembourg on 12 June. The UK was represented by Andy Lebrecht, the UK’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU.

As expected, the Council discussed and agreed the Commission’s proposal for a revision of the Council Directive on Oil Stocking (Council Document 15910/08). The directive will align the EU to International Energy Agency regulations, and increase the EU’s resilience to disruptions in oil supply.

This was followed by a report from the presidency on progress on the three energy efficiency directives currently being negotiated by the Council and Parliament. These are related specifically to Labelling (Council Document 15906/08), Tyres (Council Document 15920/08), and Buildings (Council Document 15929/08).

Finally, the Commission and presidency presented information on a number of developments in EU external energy relations, including those with Russia, Ukraine, the Energy Community Treaty, OPEC, and the G8.

Over lunch, Ministers had the first opportunity to discuss the potential location of the agency for the co-operation of energy regulators which will be established by the third package of legislation on the EU’s internal energy market. Slovakia, Romania and Slovenia have all put themselves forwards as candidates. As all received roughly equal support from member states, further discussions will now take place.

Road to Copenhagen (Public Awareness)

The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Edward Miliband): An ambitious international agreement to tackle climate change will affect everyone in the UK, and is vital for our future security and prosperity. I am today publishing a pamphlet—“the Road to Copenhagen”—aimed at raising public awareness of the international negotiations which culminate later this year at Copenhagen, and the key issues being debated. In addition, the pamphlet provides practical advice for people on the actions they can take in their own lives to reduce their own carbon footprint and make a contribution towards reducing carbon emissions. I will be making arrangements for the pamphlet to be widely disseminated. Tomorrow I will be publishing a detailed document explaining the UK’s aims for the Copenhagen negotiations.

Copies of the pamphlet will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

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Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UK Sustainable Development Commission

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Hilary Benn): The Prime Minister has approved the appointment of Will Day as the new chair of the UK Sustainable Development Commission (SDC). This part-time appointment will take effect on 27 July when Jonathan Porritt steps down after nine years as chair.

Will Day has a strong background in international development. He is the former chief executive of Care International and has spent a significant amount of his career based in Africa. In the UK he has held many roles, including: chairman of BBC Children in Need, external adviser to the BBC Corporate Social Responsibility Board and non-executive director of South Kent NHS Hospitals Trust.

Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Sciences (Performance Targets)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Huw Irranca-Davies): I have set the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) the following performance targets for 2009-10.

Service delivery

Customer satisfaction to exceed 82 per cent.

Science quality indicators to exceed 75 per cent.

Value for public money

Recover the full cost of our services

Effectiveness gains

Capacity and capability

Sustainability indicators to exceed 75 per cent.

Staff satisfaction survey to exceed 65 per cent.

Further details are given in the CEFAS business plan 2009-10, a copy of which will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

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Pitt Review (Progress Report)

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Hilary Benn): I have today placed in the House Library copies of an update report detailing the progress the Government have made in implementing the recommendations contained in Sir Michael Pitt’s report on the 2007 summer floods. A copy of the report is also on the DEFRA web site at: www.defra.gov.uk/environ/fcd/floods07.htm

Significant progress has been made. We have published a draft Flood and Water Management Bill for consultation, and will develop firm legislative proposals in the light of comments from Parliament and consultees. However, in advance of the Bill becoming law, we have taken immediate action to help communities at risk of flooding. Since the summer 2007 floods we have for example:

The Government have today announced that around 99 per cent. of those displaced by the summer 2007 floods are now back in their homes. We sympathise with those who for whatever reason have not yet been able to return and are committed to ensuring the remaining families get back into their homes as soon as possible.

The Pitt progress report explains how we will complete implementation of Sir Michael’s recommendations, with target dates. The risk of flooding remains and last week’s publication of the UKCP09 climate projections underlines how it will increase in the future as a result of
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climate change. The Government remain determined to make this country better able to anticipate and deal with the impacts of flooding. I will continue to keep the House informed of progress through future progress reports, the next of which will be due around the turn of the year.

Former Central Science Laboratory (Report and Accounts)

The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Jim Fitzpatrick): The 2008-09 annual report and accounts for the Central Science Laboratory was laid before Parliament today.

This is the final report and accounts for the Central Science Laboratory which from 1 April 2009 became part of the Food and Environment Research Agency.

Home Department

Proceeds of Crime Act 2002

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Alan Campbell): I am pleased to announce that the 2008-09 annual report of the appointed person under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 has been laid before Parliament today. The appointed person is an independent person who scrutinises the use of the search power introduced to support the measures in the Act to seize and forfeit criminal cash.

The report gives the appointed person’s opinion as to the circumstances and manner in which the search powers conferred by the Act are being exercised. I am pleased that the appointed person, Andrew Clarke, has expressed satisfaction with the operation of the search power and has found that there is nothing to suggest that the procedures are not being followed in accordance with the Act.

From 1 April 2008 to the end of March 2009 over £106 million in cash was seized by law enforcement agencies in England, Wales and Northern Ireland under powers in the Act. The seizures are subject to further investigation, and the cash is subject to further judicially approved detention, before forfeiture in the magistrates court. These powers are a valuable tool in the fight against crime and the report shows that the way they are used has been, and will continue to be, closely monitored.

Copies of the report will be available in the Vote Office.

Youth Crime Action Plan

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Alan Johnson): In conjunction with the Secretary of State for Justice and the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, I will today publish the summary of responses form the Youth Crime Action Plan consultation.

We received 86 responses, which are summarised in the document, with an outline of the initial Government response to the issues raised. In due course we will report progress on delivering the commitments in the YCAP, and next steps.

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Copies of the consultation will be placed in the Library and the Vote Office.


Freedom of Information Act 2000

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Mr. Michael Wills): Today I have deposited copies of the “Freedom of Information Act 2000—Fourth Annual Report on the operation of the Freedom of Information Act in Central Government —2008” in the Libraries of both Houses. Copies are also available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office and are available on the internet at www.justice.gov.uk/publications/freedomof informationquarterly.htm

This is the fourth annual report analysing the performance of central Government in the fourth full year since the commencement of the Freedom of Information Act.

Today I have also deposited copies of the “Freedom of Information Act 2000— Statistics on implementation in Central Government: Ql—January - March 2009” in the Libraries of both Houses. Copies are also available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.

This is the quarterly monitoring statistics report analysing the performance of central Government in the fifth full year of freedom of information.

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